The historic peninsula of Istanbul – imperial capital for almost two millenia – was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List already in 1985. But according to critics, preservation measures have not been effective, with sustainable strategies, the coordination of responsibilities and a management plan for the property lacking. While tourist promotion focuses on a few representative buildings, such as Hagia Sophia, Süleymaniye Mosque and Topkapı Palace, the vernacular houses of the historic neighbourhoods are in decline or being demolished for urban modernisation projects, resulting in deteriorating living conditions and the displacement of many inhabitants.

Since the early 2000s, local NGOs have addressed these problems. The World Heritage Committee too has criticised the developments, to the point of debating Istanbul's entry on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which has prompted local reactions and an intense public debate. Controversy centres on a number of huge infrastructural projects (such as Haliç Metro Bridge, Marmaray Railway Tunnel, and Yenikapı Station) and private high-rise developments which could affect the historic peninsula's famous skyline. Fieldwork will explore these urban transformation projects and examine the interplay of the various global, national and local powers in a contested and politically charged urban terrain, against the backdrop of current massive investments in a global boom town.

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