Turkey: construction starts on new Ataturk center in Taksim

Building an icon of Gezi Park protests in Istanbul

15 February, 13:44

    ISTANBUL - Work to demolish and rebuild the Ataturk Cultural Center has started in Istanbul. The center is one of the symbols of Taksim square, an icon of the Gezi Park protests in 2013.
    As announced last year by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the building will be replaced by a new structure that will include an opera theater with some 2,500 seats, an exhibition space, a cinema, a library, a café, restaurants and a parking lot, occupying an area of over 35,000 square meters, six times bigger than the current one. The project was signed by Murat Tabanlioglu, son of the architect who designed the original project.
    Erdogan has described the new version as ''more beautiful'' of the current structure, which was inaugurated in 1969 to host concerts and cultural events but has been closed for the past decade. However, protests have been reported. According to the Chamber of Turkish architects, ''the demolition symbolizes the systematic attacks to buildings that are a symbol of the republic era''. During the Gezi Park protests, the structure was occupied by demonstrators who covered it with banners and flags to protest against Erdogan.
    Over the next few months Taksim - a symbol of Istanbul - will radically change. On the opposite side of the square, in fact, a large mosque is being built, a project which has also been slammed by opposition members.

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