Shedding Light in the Darkness

Erdogan’s Turkish Folly

erd_820aWhen plans were announced for additional construction around Turkish President Tayyip Erdogans mega-palace, Tezcan Candan, the head of the Ankara branch of the Chamber of Architects reported in April: “The cost of constructing additional utility buildings next to the presidential complex will go over the announced 650 million Turkish lira (almost $230 million).” Candan said that the utility buildings, which are set to be completed by 2019, are planned to cover a territory of 322,000 sq. meters, which is almost the same as the territory of the entire presidential complex.

Erdogan’s mega-palace, which is said to be 30 times larger than the White House and four times the size of France’s Palace of Versailles, has been the center of much controversy due to its location and huge price tag. In July 2015, the Turkish Council of State found that the construction of the palace violated the law and ordered it to be vacated.

The palace project was also controversial because hundreds of trees were cut down to make space for it, in what had been a forest reserve bequeathed to the nation by modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Taking into account the overall project including all the construction stages, external and internal design, decoration and development of the adjacent territories, the total cost of the project has reached $7 billion. In December 2014, Turkey’s state-owned Housing Development Administration refused to divulge the actual construction cost on the grounds that releasing the information could hurt Turkey’s economy.

Reports in the Turkish media have alleged large-scale corruption during the construction process, suggesting that the construction company made profits exceeding 1,000 percent and violated regulations set by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.

The Chamber of Architects reported that all the major materials used in building the presidential palace were imported, a statement in sharp contrast to the emphasis from Turkey’s rulers on the palace being “national.”

“The roof system came from Germany. Green marble was purchased from India. All the materials in the palace were made in France, England and Italy. The trees were purchased from Italy and the Netherlands,” Candan said.

Inside the palace, a majestic hallway leads up to a sweeping staircase. The quixotic architectural style seems to cross the Ottoman and Seljuk traditions with that of a modern Chinese railway station. “Outside it’s been fitted with giant columns,” Candan said, “reminding us of Hitler-era fascist architecture.”

The actual number of rooms in the building remains a mystery. In the wake of some intense public debates, Erdogan announced that the palace had some “1,150 or so” rooms.

The Chamber of Architects, however, announced that based on technical calculations of their own, it appeared that there were at least 2,000 rooms in the part of the building visible to the eye alone.

The single and double doors throughout the palace are also notable for their extreme cost. The double doors are some 3.40 meters high and 2 meters wide and there are 170 of these in the palace. With just one set of these double doors costing $60,000, the total cost of all the double doors hits $8.7 million. The cost of the imported U.S. glass used in the windows of the palace is estimated at more than $240 million.

The whole edifice is surrounded by a forested park. The total cost of all the imported trees, grass, decorative pools and other garden decor and various plants is estimated to be $874 million.

In an interview with A-Haber television broadcast in June 2015, Erdogan said his reasons for needing the palace were because of cockroaches. He said his old offices when he was prime minister from 2003-2014 were infested with cockroaches. “A guest would come to the old prime ministry office and find cockroaches in the bathroom. That’s why we built this palace.”

“Only dictators want to live in palaces,” said Izzet Cetin, a member of the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party. “Normal heads of state live in relatively modest compounds.”

In 2014, Turkey’s minimum wage was raised to 891 Turkish Liras monthly, or $414. In Turkey average monthly working hours are 225 hours, which equals $1.86 per hour.


One response to “Erdogan’s Turkish Folly

  1. Claude Robichaux July 18, 2016 at 7:34 am

    There ya go -cockroaches. Sounds reasonable. He just wanted to be sure, that’s all.


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