During my Erasmus visit to Istanbul I had the privilege to stay at The Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. The research institute is located on the European side of the city close to Taksim Square and was established in 1962. It was at first given access to small lodgings at the Consulate General of Sweden on a site bought by the Swedish state in the year 1757 for the then Swedish Embassy in Ottoman Constantinople.
In 1974, the so-called Dragoman House, situated behind the Palais de Suède of the Consulate General and once the home of interpreters (dragomans) working for the Swedish diplomats, came into the possession of the research institute. After several phases of restoration work, the Dragoman House at present comprises the secretariat and library of the Institute, as well as an auditorium and, on the top floor of the building, the residence of the Director. More information about the research institute can be found here: http://www.srii.org/
Next to the Dragoman House is a guest house with rooms for 10-15 guests, kitchen facilities, two seminar rooms and a beautiful terrace. The guest rooms, in the first place intended for scholarship holders and researchers from the Nordic countries. More information a can be found here: http://www.sfv.se/sv/fastigheter/utrikes/europa/istanbul-turkiet-svenska-forskningsinstitutet/
The guest house is very comfortable and a great place to meet other researchers staying in Istanbul. Moreover, the library in the Dragoman House provides a comfortable environment during working hours. I have spent my late afternoons there writing up my analysis on Istanbul´s urban expansion. I would like to say thank you to the staff at SRII for providing me with such a wonderful environment.
After giving an introductory lecture focusing on spatial methods to analyse urbanization using remote sensing data it was finally time to present initial findings of the changing urban landscape in Istanbul from 2000 to 2013. The analysis was conducted together with my colleague and graduate student Mr. Eigo TATEISHI and make use of a dataset called MOD13QI (MODIS EVI) which is available free of charge from NASA. However, before entering the analysis I would like to provide a few recent facts about the urbanization in Istanbul during recent years. This process is highly controversial and has stirred political turbulence providing news widely spread around the globe. Rapid urban land development is in many settings, not only in an emerging market context, controversial. Making land available for private or public development can cause environmental problems for example in the case of Istanbul turning the forest area surrounding the city to urban and built up areas or social and economic problems when suburban areas used by city dwellers with less financial capacity are converted into more expensive housing for the city´s population that can afford higher rents. In recent years the city planning strategy has been focused on large scale development projects called mega projects (see below images from Turkish media).
To mention a few among many projects; the third international airport located on the European side of the city to ease the congested Atatürk Airport, on the European side of Istanbul and Sabiha Gökçen International on the Asian side, a channel for sea freight connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara to ease the congested Bosphorus, subway tunnel to connect the Asian and European sides of the city, public housing and real estate projects catering for the city´s growing middle class´s demand for high quality and more luxurious housing in suburban locations. The spatial/temporal analysis of the changing land use patterns in Istanbul clearly find patterns were land used for forest and other vegetation has been converted into urban and built up area during last 13 years. The analysis is conducted using a resolution of 250m indicating a relationship between areas with observed large scale and infrastructure (see below image). The analysis based on satellite images conducted by me with very limited knowledge about the urban development in Istanbul clearly needed the contextual knowledge provided by my colleagues here. Once the results of the initial analysis were presented comments and suggestions were delivered. The main comments relate to find accurate measures on the extent of the urbanization in order to compare different districts in the city and the relationship between urban expansion and the present infrastructure development. There is definitely scope to develop the initial spatial analysis into an article which hopefully can be co-authored by colleagues from my host university. This would be a great outcome of my two weeks Erasmus scholarship and a great start for in-depth collaboration with Bahçeşehir University. The next steps of my stay here will be devoted to providing lectures on the GIS methods used for remote sensing analysis and to refine and expand my present analysis on Istanbul. A first brief with initial results must be ready for distribution to Turkish media before I leave so there is plenty of work to be done.
I visited Istanbul during the summer 2014 and found the city very interesting from an urban planning perspective in particular in reference to its booming real estate sector. During my holidaystay I got so curious about the city and could not resist to contact a few local economists to get answers on my questions. The booming Turkish economy and the rapid urbanization of Istanbul was the closest I could come to the patterns found East Asian context which I am used to study. I was lucky to meet with a team of economists from the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences at Bahçeşehir University at the main campus in Beşiktaş. We found common interests in emerging markets and the geographical and financial expansions of large cities and agreed on trying to establish an academic relationship in order to analyze the rapid expansion of Istanbul using remote sensing data.
Upon my return to Malmö I got help from Åse Falk (US) to establish and exchange agreement between our departments and from Maria English at the International Office to apply for an Erasmus Exchange. I must say that I am impressed by the fast actions taken and support given by the administration to put the outome of my summer meeting in to action. I was awarded a 2 weeks stay with the support of Erasmus +. Such a great outcome from meeting a gang of researchers during the summer. So after spending a few lazy days at home for Christmas I arrived to Istanbul on the 26 December to give my first lecture on 29 December and meet & learn from my new colleagues at Bahçeşehir University. My first lecture gave an introduction to how to use remote sensing in a social science setting mainly focusing on how to measure economic change based on a recent article which I have co-authored with Ola Hall at Lund University and Souknilah Keola at IDE-Jetro in Tokyo, Japan (article and be found here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X14002551). The lecture was attended by staff members and graduate students and gave me excellent comments on how to proceed with my interest in measure and analyze the rapid urbanization of Istanbul.