“Cities In Ruins: The Bombs That Changed The Face of Istanbul” is a mockumentary created for kpm Kerem Piker Mimarlik‘s entry, named “Bomba”, in “Musibet” exhibition of the 1st Istanbul Design Biennial. This cheeky movie depicts the hugely fictional alternate history of Istanbul, as imagined and written by Kerem Piker and his team and visualizes it in the format of a BBC documentary. Kerem Piker’s “Bomba” presents fictional retrospective scenarios around the three main quarters of Istanbul that are well-etched in the memory of Istanbuliots: Taksim Square, Taşkışla and Galata Bridge. The project suggests that the formation of the city throughout the 20th century depended not on precise and well-designed methods, but on a series of accidents. In the presentation of the exhibition, including the film, this critical reading of the urban development is redirected to the metaphorical accident, “the bombing”, that has supposedly taken place during World War II.

The film makes extensive use of vintage war footage from the World War II era. For establishing the alternate story of how the real Operation Tidal Wave has ended with the accidental bombing of Istanbul, authentic airborne footage of B-24 Liberator aircrafts and various imagery of the war were cut into the film. However, the main driving force of the film was the host. Writer E. Seda Kayım, for hiding her Turkish accent, took on the fictional role of “Pragyawati Thompson”, a half-Indian, half-British TV historian. The film is narrated entirely by her. The film relies on the classical tropes of TV documentaries, mainly the cheesy and over-dramatic wording of otherwise fairly ordinary events. Since the bombings themselves, or the consequences thereof could only be visualized with minimal drawings and photomontages, the “filler” parts of the movie had to deliver the dramatic undertone.

The imagery of the aftermath and the reconstructive urban projects depicting this alternate timeline was entirely created by the team at kpm Kerem Piker Mimarlık. Hand sketches of the new Galata Bridge and the modernist urban development in Taksim Square, as well as digital photo manipulations of Taşkışla’s demolished north wing and digital drawings of the new campus were all part of the exhibition; therefore, their addition to the film elevated the suspension of disbelief the mockumentary in part aspired to achieve. The film did not have the budget or the time to set up elaborate shots of either the aftermath of the bombings or the resulting transformations in the wake of the war. Instead, the host takes the audience on a sightseeing tour of the places that were supposedly affected during the “unfortunate event”, as it is coined by the alternate historic narrative. The film shows all of the present-day locations referenced in the film, using as tight of shots as possible for hiding away what the story repeatedly suggests as transformed.

In order to create this immersive experience and quite possibly even fool the audience into questioning their knowledge of Istanbul’s history, the appearance of an expert was also necessary. The host, Pragyawati Thompson, at one point visits a local historian: Uğur Tanyeli. In the film, historian Uğur Tanyeli speaks from the imaginary, war-ridden context of the alternate Istanbul. Uğur Tanyeli took the idea of a bombed-out Istanbul, and historically and theoretically contextualized it in terms of its redevelopment using real historic examples such as London in the aftermath of The Battle of Britain. In the end, “Bomba” and its accompanying film “Cities In Ruins: The Bombs That Changed The Face Of Istanbul” intended to make the audience question how and why decisions regarding urban development in a huge metropolitan area should be made in the face of adversarial conditions that warrant immediate and drastic transformations and refurbishments.

Directed by:
M. Can Tanyeli

Creative direction and screenplay by:
E. Seda Kayım

Sound design by:
Erhun Erdoğan

Pragyawati Thompson – E. Seda Kayım
Uğur Tanyeli – as himself

kpm Kerem Piker Mimarlık

Kerem Piker
Cansu Cürgen
Yelta Köm