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The Evolution of Istanbul, In Maps

Explore the crucial milestones in the life of the now-troubled city on this interactive platform.
The city plan of Istanbul created by French architect Henri Prost in 1937, overlaid by the 2016 district boundaries of the city.
The city plan of Istanbul created by French architect Henri Prost in 1937, overlaid by the 2016 district boundaries of the city.Istanbul Urban Database/MIT

Istanbul has been in the headlines recently for the most heartbreaking news. But long before it became the stage for geopolitical instability, it was a bustling metropolis with a rich and complicated urban history.

A new online archive allows viewers to pull the curtains back and observe some crucial milestones in the megacity’s evolution. The Istanbul Urban Database, created by Nil Tuzcu, a researcher at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her colleagues at the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, is a one-stop shop to view historical maps, plans, photographs, and transportation routes, all of which “contribute to the collective memory of Istanbul,” the creators write in a press release.