I work in Levent the biggest business region of İstanbul. The skyscrapers, massive roads and shopping malls, Istanbul’s 4 most well-known and its 3 busiest is within 1km radius of centre. The place is hyperactive with rushes of human and vehicle traffic, it is horrendous. So it fits every business like area I can think of.
When working in schools, you very rarely get to work in busy places like this. You work in quiet residential areas where the voices of kids in the playground echo and screech for miles. Busy places like this are left for the prestigious and professional.
The ladies here dot about in high heeled court shoes and men wear long Burberry trench coats. The unruly pavements are probably the one of the few similarities it has left with the history of this city. The buildings are new, with newer buildings coming, the cars are new and the faces are young, fresh, bright and European.
I don’t know why but from my many visits to Istanbul as a child, I remember the people to be dark skinned and that was my young minds distinction between the Turkish and the British. The British had bright, white hair skin and light brown to blonde hair whereas the Turks had dark skin, strong facial features with thick, dark and coarse brown to black hair. I was as amazed to see a blonde and blue eyed Turk as I was when I first met a black kid in London. Now that sounds like a small and narrow mind, but I guess I only knew what I could physically see.
Our site entrance which is at the back of Levent which is on the borderline of Gültepe, a ghetto and run down area of Istanbul. It’s like a Gucci store next to Primark or Hilton next to Rose’s Bed and Breakfast. They are complete opposites.
So Gültepe and Levent, Gültepe translated as ‘a hill top of roses’ and Levent a males name meaning ‘an agile and handsome man,’ this tainted business area I work in on the breech of change. We being one out the maybe 5 construction sites in the area, you can imagine how it’s going to change even more over the next 2-3 years. We are planting large, huge and tall towers. At the moment though the place looks pretty confused, with many international investors, its own people, the workers all from all the different places of Istanbul, the shoppers, the construction workers, the individuals in ethnic clothing from around the world and the general crowd, the place looks busy. Not physically busy, but busy on the eye which sort of distinguishes it from the rest of Istanbul.
It’s nothing like Nişantaşi, which is a very French and ‘al fresco’ neither is it anything like Taksim, the old water banks of Istanbul now gloomy and stinging with the aura of a gothic teenager, it isn’t like the Bosporus either, the Bosporus just reminds you of the existence of god every time you get a glimpse. Then there’s Balat, a rundown old town that looks like a dancing gypsy, nor is it like the E5 high road which has the footprints of social history grinded into it and nor can it be romantic or nostalgic like the parks up in Yildiz (Star) and Gülhane (Rose-house) that behold old and lost love stories.
So Levent the agile and handsome man is nothing but a boring city banker compared to the rest of the city, see if I compare it to Bank in London which has always reminded me of large historic courthouse with streets going through it or Canary Wharf that just reminds me of a large birthday cake as the HSBC tower smokes a little from the top, Levent is a cold and electronic, young with teenage blues, static and blunt and Gültepe, well Gültepe just seems like the high street that my grandmother would trot down just to do her weekly grocery shopping. Brought together they become confusing and oddly energetic, the hype of professionals and the eagerness and passion of the working labourers, it just fuses into an explosion of colour stuck in between sour walls.