Mardin Lockdown Experience:Strategies for a More Tolerant Urban Development

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Bristol University Press

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Living through Covid 19 lockdown experience we realized the basics for a healthy living. Direct access to natural resources such as fresh air, sunlight, water, food and green, besides a limited sense of social interaction with other human beings became the crucial aspects of our mental and physiological health. Limited to our homes and the nearest urban sphere we became more in touch with nature. At this point, sustainability of our living seems to be more dependent on the ability of our physical environments to maintain this vital relationship with the basics of living, natural resources. As a result of the neoliberal urbanization processes in Turkey since the 1990s, a generic urban landscape of high-rise apartment blocks built on tabula rasa contexts dominated our cities (Tekeli, 2009). The Covid 19 crisis made apparent that the lack in considering place-specific natural variables in the urbanization processes, that vital cut off, has become the failure of those strategies in sustaining a healthy living. Living through the Covid 19 experience in the city of Mardin, which accommodates a new settlement besides a traditional one, and witnessing the old city’s efficiency vis-a-vis the new settlement’s ineffectiveness in dealing with crises, evoked the need to explore the features of our cities that create a more sustainable living under compelling circumstances. In this sense, this paper aims to explore the city-making processes and resulting spatial patterns, in both the old and the new settlements of Mardin, in their relations with the place-specific natural context. Mardin is a historic city on the southeast of Turkey, on the Syrian border. Developed as a military post of the East Roman Empire, the historic architectural heritage of the city dates back to the 12th, 16th and the 19th centuries (Alioglu, 2000). The old city center was built with traditional stone buildings, interwoven along a slope and terraced overlooking the Mesopotamia Plain. Geographical restrictions both for urban growth and the penetration of modern urban infrastructure directed the new development to the northwestern plains in the 1980s (Çağlayan, 2016). Following the neoliberal urbanization trend of the period, and especially after the relocation of the administrative center in the 1990s, the new settlement of Mardin developed a new as “a shapeless agglomeration” (Lefebvre 1996, p. 148) with generic housing estates and individual apartment blocks (Tekeli 2009, Caglayan 2016). The organic spatial pattern of the old city developed through the natural parameters such as topography, sun and prevailing wind orientation besides utilization of water resources, endemic flora and fauna, and a wide integration of green spaces within both the housing units and the urban environment. The narrow and shaded pathways snuggle through the interwoven built environment which can easily be perceived as a natural extension of the topography. Sun and wind oriented settlement pattern is formed by the organization of rectangular units (rooms), horizontally and vertically following the topography, forming a unique spatial configuration for each house with in between terraces, courtyards and eyvans. As a result of this organization pattern, the borders of the houses become indefinite and permeable allowing the penetration of sun, fresh air and green within the immediate living areas. In contrast, the new settlement is developed ungrounded in means of its relations with the topographic and climatic givens. Due to their lack in responding to the existing topography, the apartment blocks are unable to provide interaction with the surrounding open space. Within the definitive borders, balconies become the only access to nature in a limited sense. During the Covid 19 lockdowns, it is observed that the perception of confinement is reduced substantially in the old city center due to the spatial organization pattern allowing immediate access to natural resources. Being out in the open air, while still staying inside the house, facilitated by the organization of the closed, open and semi-open spaces within the house, has alleviated the effects of the lockdowns on mental and physiological health, compared to the definitive borders of the apartment living. Sustainability of the living environment in this sense, is also maintained by the utilization of the endemic flora and water resources as both a natural and economic parameter. Due to the availability of space in the old city of Mardin, the house provides for domestic economy with vegetative and animal production. On the other hand, as a result of the urban development policies of the local governments, the penetration of the endemic flora, and even green within the dense urban environment is very limited. Direct access to water through underground reserves, active fountains and wells within the old settlement is another feature maintaining sustainability. In contrast with the new settlement, where drinking water is supplied from the supermarkets, permanent and first-hand access becomes a major relief especially in the first encounter with a crisis like Covid 19. The urbanization processes in the Turkish cities since the 1990s, based on certain global economic parameters, excluded the place-specific natural contexts. Nature, that vast entity, the actual host and the ultimate background of our environments, happens to be our vital source which has almost been cut off with the vast and dense urban development. As a result, our innate relationship with nature has become more indirect. It is not about not building, but building accordingly, acknowledging the essential need for direct access; to wind and sun, to water, soil and trees. Covid 19 crisis creates a confrontation with our urban environment; its insufficiency in involving nature as a parameter. Traditional environments as in Mardin's case, on the other hand, present us with an opportunity to re-discover contingent urban development strategies that ground upon the existing dynamics of life.


Anahtar Kelimeler

Kentsel Tasarım, Covid 19 ve Kentler, Mimari Tasarım, Covid 19 and Cities, Housing, Urban Design


Global Reflections on Covid-19 and Urban Inequalities series Volume2:Housing and Home

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Volume2:Housing and Home


Ataş, Z. Ve Atmaca, Y. (2021). Mardin Lockdown Experience: Strategies for a More Tolerant Urban Development. Doucet, B., Fillion, P. Ve Van Melik, R. (Ed.), Global Reflections on Covid-19 and Urban Inequalities series Volume2: Housing and Home İçinde (s.53-64). England: Bristol University Press