Ceramics wrap seemingly every other building in
In contrast to this “high” form of ceramics, there is also a more prevalent “low” form (though not yet considered part of the heritage of the city): most post-war apartment buildings are covered in sheets of small ceramic tiles. They are a cheap, durable and easy to clean covering for the hastily constructed buildings, often arranged in motifs and colorful patterns. These buildings, known as yap/sat (literally “build/sell”) are made when a gecekondu land owner who has no money goes into partnership with a local builder who also has limited funds. They will divide the new building in half, each owner taking, say, four of the eight new units. Thus someone who previously owned one unit can now make some additional income without the investment, and a builder will acquire property for the material and labor investment. Much of the city grew this way after the 1950’s. The ubiquitous yap/sat buildings make up a significant portion of the fabric, but also are the first to be targeted for renewal by the government eager to clean up the look and feel of the city. The ceramics that decorate these workmanlike buildings are reminiscent of the Turkish tradition of ornamental tile work. Rolled in sheets, they are combined in different ways on each building, each owner’s personal take on beautification. Since they mostly come from the same limited family of products, the tens of thousands of buildings around the city are linked by their prosaic apartment typology and glowing ceramic tile wrappers.