"Ecumenopolis" Film Explores Challenges to Urbanization in Istanbul

"Ecumenopolis," a new documentary on the urbanization of Istanbul, looks at the neoliberal transformation that shifted planning priorities. Photo by Dysturb.Net

Home to nearly 15 million inhabitants and 20 percent of the country’s population, Istanbul is not only the biggest city in Turkey but also the third largest city in Europe, after London and Moscow. Istanbul’s rapid urbanization in the last three decades has brought along a host of issues, especially in transportation. To highlight these challenges in Istanbul,  İmre Azem directed “Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits.” (For another Istanbul-themed documentary, don’t forget to check out “Overdrive: Istanbul in the New Millennium,” a film by Aslihan Unaldi, produced by EMBARQ.)

The term “ecumenopolis,” after which the film is named, represents the idea of a single continuous worldwide city, the future of urban areas as a result of current urbanization and population growth trends. The term was coined in 1967 by Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis, a Greek city planner.

Despite the current levels of congestion and air pollution, the city has been looking to construct a third Bosporus bridge. Critics of the plan argue that more roads will bring more traffic, adding to the existing challenges of the city. The documentary looks at arguments against the bridge and investigates Istanbul’s transport as a whole.

From the film’s website:

While billions of dollars are wasted on new road tunnels, junctions, and viaducts with a complete disregard for the scientific fact that all new roads eventually create their own traffic, Istanbul in 2010 has to contend with a single-line eight-station metro “system”. Due to insufficient budget allocations for mass public transportation, rail and other alternative transport systems, millions of people are tormented in traffic, and billions of dollars worth of time go out the exhaust pipe. What do our administrators do? You guessed right: more roads!

The northern forest areas disappear at a rapid pace, and the project for a 3rd bridge over the Bosphorous is threatening the remaining forests and water reservoirs giving life to Istanbul. The bridges that connect the two continents are segregating our society through the urban land speculation that they trigger. So what are we, the people of Istanbul, doing against this pillage? If cities are a reflection of the society, what can we say about ourselves by looking at Istanbul? What kind of city are we leaving behind for future generations?

In addition to focusing on transport, the documentary approaches Istanbul’s urban planning through a holistic approach, while questioning the transformation of the city and the dynamic behind the transformation. Interviews with experts, academics, writers, investors, city-dwellers and community leaders makes “Ecumenopolis” a rich experience that explores urbanization of Istanbul.

Follow the award-winning project on Facebook.

Watch a trailer from the film:

Since the 1980s, Istanbul’s population has seen tremendous growth, as visible in the chart below. 


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