The architecture of neoliberalism is a form of urban management that includes the re-creation of spaces or the arrangement of existing spaces to create competitive spaces, attract investment to spaces, and provide an economic revitalization of spaces. The architecture of neoliberalism carries out its urban management with neoliberal policies. Social scientists, architects, and economists such as Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, David Harvey, Edward Soja, and Saskia Sassen are the first representatives to discuss neoliberalism’s urban management effects in urban policy development. This article’s purpose is that debate the architecture of neoliberalism in Turkey and its current problems in spaces with a brief history of the architecture of neoliberalism and its spatial features by referring to David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, and İlhan Tekeli.

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The Architecture of Neoliberalism_©xavier arnau

A Brief History of the Architecture of Neoliberalism 

With the collapse of the industrial model that dominated the economy by the Second World War towards the end of the 1970s, economic and social policies, called neoliberal, were implemented led by Ronald Reagan in America and Margaret Thatcher in the UK. Neoliberal policies aimed to overcome the economic and social crisis of the Fordist capital accumulation regime advocated a free, competitive, homogeneous cultured socio-economic mechanism system without the intervention of the state and the pressure of the society’s collective means of consumption. Thus neoliberal policies provided new capital accumulation using privatizing public goods and services, reducing social assistance, paving the way for international capital, and increasing competition. Neoliberal policies caused deregulation in the economy, ignoring the state management, privatization, and giving priority to the private sector management, according to İlhan Tekeli. Therefore, David Harvey stated that with the neoliberal policy process, a new alternative and a transition in favor of capital and high-income society began, and neoliberal policy affected many other sectors. Especially Margaret Thatcher’s ”There is no alternative (TINA)” discourse was the motto of the neoliberal policy process. It means that neoliberalism was the balance of nature that the strong defeat the weak in competition.

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Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher_©BBC

The Space of Neoliberalism 

Neoliberal policies, not limited to the economic dimension, deeply affected the urbanization process, and urban management was one of the most discussed issues. Thus, the state management reorganized the urban space to ensure capital accumulation in the neoliberal policy process, and space became the main theoretical field of neoliberalism.  In the neoliberal urban policy process, Henri Lefebvre supported the idea that the achievement of neoliberalism was its discovery of the power of space, thus with the discovery of the power of space, neoliberalism architecture had two significant symbol projects Baltimore Inner Harbor Revitalization Project and London Harbor Urban Transformation Project. These projects included the re-functioning and development of the land in the port area in the context of global competition. However, cities that aimed for economic development and globalization put problems of unemployment and poverty in the background by creating spaces for the upper-income group. The spread of similar projects caused the de-identification of places, the weakening of social memory, and the encouragement of a consumption-based lifestyle.

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Baltimore Inner Harbor_©kilduffs

Similar projects also created many problem areas, such as spatial polarization, social-spatial polarization/exclusion, and gentrification. Therefore, its discovery of the power of space was interpreted similarly by different people. For instance, Guy Debord described the new space as a stage decoration in his book The Society of the Spectacle, written in the 1970s. For Guy Debord, the spectacle was the moment when the commodity succeeds in utterly occupying social life. In other words, we can interpret that the space of neoliberalism presents us with the world of commodities. Another example was that Karl Marx stated precisely the space of neoliberalism as trading everything and discovering the marketable value of everything material or intangible, in his book The Poverty of Philosophy.

The Architecture of Neoliberalism in Turkey 

The urban transformation uses neoliberal policies as a means of implementation. Thus, the neoliberal policy creates spaces in favor of capital such as multi-story luxury residences, security complexes, office towers, shopping, and entertainment centers with participation in the urban transformation process. In short, urban transformation supply its purpose of the economic revitalization of the city, re-integration of the areas that lost value in terms of investment into the urban economy, and improving the financial possibilities of the urban management, with neoliberal policies. For instance, consumption spaces have significant places in the process of spatial transformation of Bursa with neoliberal policies. The spatial transformation includes traditional commercial spaces such as the Grand Bazaar and Hanlar District or shops operating on streets such as Altıparmak Street, Fomara Street, Atatürk Street, Çekirge Street. Especially the Grand Bazaar and Hanlar District could not maintain their old identity with the opening of shopping malls considered the new attraction center of Bursa.

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Traditional Bazaar Located in Bursa_©79mtk

The Architecture of Neoliberalism’s Current Issues: Multi-Dimensional Approach to the City 

The architecture of neoliberalism includes the arrangement of the physically deteriorated areas of the city for the sole purpose of generating income, and as a result, citizens residing here come across displacement. E.g; urban transformation in slum districts. In the social dimension, the fact that urban spaces are dependent on economic experience causes the citizens to experience social memory weakness, question their spatial belonging, social exclusion, and feel deprived of their right to the city. E.g; Citizens who have been residing in a certain place for a long time, especially the elderly population, question their spatial belonging or abandon the city because of urban changes or not seeing familiar places. In the economic dimension, the space of neoliberalism has the risk of being idle in case of changing the urban transformation projects’ user, who benefits from projects’ employment potential. E.g; In the urban transformation projects carried out in the historical area, the shops on the ground floor appeal to the upper-income group instead of traditional occupations. In the environmental dimension, urban revitalization in historical area damage historic preservation and presents an artificial environment, creating a risk for the sustainability of history and distorting the urban silhouette.

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Distorting the urban silhouette, Galataport in Turkey_©İlber Ortaylı

The Architecture of Neoliberalism’s Current Issues: COVID-19 

Cities developed with neoliberal policies are more affected in the Covid-19 process. The reason for the problems that Italy has experienced, in particular, is the city plans established with neoliberal policies. Opportunities for high-income groups to move out of the city due to hygiene and health concerns show that providing equal city services to everyone from local governments is essential. Moreover, the necessity of flexible solutions to urban spaces also emerges. People living in cities focused on economic profit rather than urban space are looking for fair, healthy, and livable spaces for everyone due to the socio-spatial inequality created by Covid-19 in the city.

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Covid-19 in Italy_©Denis Sokol

Reference List

  1. Books

Debord, G. (1967). Society of the spectacle. Detroit, Michigan: Black & Red.

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Harvey, D. (2007). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford Oxford University Press.

Harvey, D. (2001). Spaces of capital : towards a critical geography. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University 

Press.

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Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Malden, Ma ; Oxford: Blackwell.

  1. Images/visual mediums

[Image 1] The Architecture of Neoliberalism. Available at: https://www.istockphoto.com/tr/foto%C4%9Fraf/financial-district-of-london-gm488471764-74153693 [Accessed 27 October 2021].

[Image 2] Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Available at: https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/1920×1080/p04qr85z.jpg [Accessed 27 October 2021].

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[Image 3] Baltimore Inner Harbor. Available at: http://www.kilduffs.com/Harbor.html [Accessed 27 October 2021].

[Image 4] Guy Debord ‘Society of the Spectacle’ Book Cover. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Giselle-Harvey/publication/338612149/figure/fig8/AS:847710668206092@1579121381882/Guy-Debord-Society-of-the-Spectacle-Book-Cover-1967-Detournement-Life-Magazine-image.png [Accessed 27 October 2021].

[Image 5] Traditional Bazaar Located in Bursa Available at: https://www.istockphoto.com/tr/foto%C4%9Fraf/bursa-uzun-%C3%A7ar%C5%9F%C4%B1-gm1143582554-307164929 [Accessed 27 October 2021].

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[Image 6] Distorting the urban silhouette, Galataport in Turkey. Available at: https://www.hurriyet.com.tr/amp/yazarlar/ilber-ortayli/istanbulun-tophane-kiyisindaki-rezalet-41767911 [Accessed 27 October 2021].

[Image 7] Covid-19 in Italy. Available at: https://www.istockphoto.com/tr/foto%C4%9Fraf/galleria-vittorio-emanuele-iiden-y%C3%BCz-maskesi-takan-bir-grup-asyal%C4%B1-turist-gm1209737008-350180007 [Accessed 27 October 2021].

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