A new megaproject in Istanbul includes an underground cruise port

The next big idea in urban planning may be right under the noses of architects, as evidenced by the urban renewal that has just been completed in Istanbul.

On paper, Galataport has many of the hallmarks of everyday megaprojects: 400,000 square meters of construction, 250 retail units, ample parking for 2,400 vehicles, a 177-room Peninsula Hotel, a Renzo-designed museum Piano, a Salt Bae restaurant and 1.2 of the miles of new shoreline that renovated a part of the city inaccessible to the public for 200 years, all at a cost of $1.7 billion. On paper it’s Turkish Canary Wharf or Hudson Yards or any other Pudongulous horror. But the reality is that Galataport has transcended megaproject design by embracing a flip-flop on the pump. It is the world’s first underground cruise port, projecting 15,000 passengers daily and 25 million annual visitors.

Post office building in Galataport.

Photo: Sefa Yamak

When ships dock, sections of sidewalk rise 90 degrees to reveal ramps that lead down to customs and passport control (the raised sidewalks also serve as security barriers).

“We tried to come up with a system to open up the view,” said Figen Ayan, port chief of Galataport. “We thought of building as a car park because, really, what do you do in a terminal? You handle the baggage. You board the buses. Customs. It’s not really classy or sexy. So, do they logistically need something extravagant? No. It can be done underground. She called the project “not just an expansion of our city, but also an expansion of our knowledge.”

There were a lot of technical challenges, said Erdem Tavas, board member of Galataport: “We didn’t build it by the sea. We built it in the sea. technical innovations. He noted that such construction avoids archaeological concerns in the historic port city that was the land endpoint of the ancient spice route and served as the capital of two of the world’s most influential empires. “There’s no Atlantis there,” he joked.

A render of Galataport.

Bonny J. Streater