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If I were Istanbul’s Mayor

Istanbul Design Biennial

Increasing awareness of Istanbul citizens in urgent urban issues of the metropolis.

October 2012 

Istanbul, Turkey

Partners: Mediamatic, Istanbul Modern

4 Sessions with 500 Partcipants and over 1503 citizen votes

Urban Challenge

An average Istanbul citizen is engaged in discussing politics on daily basis. Despite this passionate interest in country’s politics, the lack of accurate information about party programs and visions for the city’s future is attention-grabbing. Which political party envisions what for future for the metropolis? We designed this interactive installation to bring the burning urban topics and spatial choices to be made to the attention of regular citizens.
Based on reactions to ‘If I were Istanbul’s Mayor’, one learns what type of mayor s/he would make: A tree-hugging, radical, populist mayor or a gas-guzzling, pragmatic, globalist one.


During the first Design Biennial, all visitors with an İstanbul-kart could take part in the vision-making process by simply tapping their own card on the preferred scenarios. We could then translate these user generated choices using RFID technology to visualise and evaluate the scenarios in real-time.
Responding to dilemma’s on traffic, drinking water, food, energy, urban density, public space, shopping, transformation, investment and earthquake risk, participants could conclude what type of mayor they would make: A tree-hugging, radical, populist mayor or a gas-guzzling, pragmatic, globalist one.

Project Results

Willingness to express own opinion as a respected citizen translated to over 2000 enthusiastic participating citizens and the positive attention of the national press for the ‘If I were Istanbul’s Mayor’ installation during the Design Biennial. Please read the trends below:

Drinking Water as a Basic Right

Highest contrast of choices made can be observed about the drinking water issue. Almost 99% of the participants thought free drinking water for urbanites must be seen as a basic human right. Currently Istanbul residents pay for the drinking water from private providers where quality control was its limitations.

Simultaneously the responses given to the ‘sprawl’ dilemma reveal a clear preference for low rise housing and low density urban growth. Such lower density growth does already threaten city’s nature and water reserves situated at the northern edge of İstanbul.
Interlinking dilemmas about nature preservation versus individual access to ground bound housing was a goal our team initially set. These conflicting responses helped us to frame debate.

No Nuclear unlike Paris

While most of the residents were surprised to learn that 40% of the energy needs of Paris were provided through nuclear plants, a clear favour was visible for renewable energies.

Back to Self-built

On the most controversial topic of Istanbul, urban transformation linked to expected earthquake, we asked whether residents were happy with the operations of centralist housing corporation TOKI. We could measure a clear liking to local and organic operations of entrepreneurs which would be strictly checked through official procedures.

Media Coverage

If I were Istanbul's Mayor at Turkish National Newspaper Sabah

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