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See an eerie ghost town of castles, created by Turkey’s recession

Empty houses are a familiar sight in countries where economic recession has kneecapped booming real estate development. But few look as Gothic as these.

See an eerie ghost town of castles, created by Turkey’s recession
[Photo: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images]

In Las Vegas, it was row after row of foreclosed tract homes. In Spain, it was sprawling housing projects that sat empty for years. In Turkey, it’s Burj Al Babas, a development of more than 700 individual “villas,” each styled with identical Gothic ornamentation.

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Over the past two decades, Turkey has seen enormous economic growth, helped along by a building boom and major infrastructure projects. But within the past year, the country’s economy has hit a slump, with the real estate market stalling, inflation skyrocketing, and political turmoil emerging around the slowdown. Like the United States, Spain, and other countries that have experienced recessions over the past decade, stalled construction projects have become visual emblems of the broader downturn. In Turkey’s case, one emblem is Burj Al Babas, a development where investors could pick up a villa on a 3,500-square-foot plot of land for between $300,000 and $500,000.

[Photo: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images]

report from the AFP on the development describes how the $203 million project, which has been underway for a few years and is aimed at foreign investors, is now stalled, in limbo along with other construction projects across the country. The AFP elaborates:

Unfinished and empty housing projects are strewn across the country, testimony to the trouble the construction sector, and the wider economy, now finds itself in. The construction sector has been a driving force of the Turkish economy under the rule of [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, who has overseen growth consistently above the global average since he came to power in 2003. But the sector contracted 5.3 percent on-year in the third quarter of 2018.

“Three out of four companies seeking bankruptcy protection or bankruptcy are construction companies,” said Alper Duman, associate professor at Izmir University of Economics.

The agency’s photos of the project are vivid–at least in part thanks to the unusual mixture of tract home development and fairytale Gothic styling, made even more dramatic thanks to small plots and sheer visual repetition.

It’s a familiar story: A construction sector buoyed by foreign investment and stalled by an inevitable slowdown. The question is whether that slowdown will foment political upheaval in Turkey the way it has in other recent, post-recession countries.

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About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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