Cultural Agencies office established itself in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Gülsuyu / Gülensu. This choice was made after extensive site visits, interviews with local actors and background research which took place between October 2008 and March 2009. Compared to other neighbourhoods, Gülsuyu and Gülensu stood out as both, most challenging and welcoming to the Cultural Agencies initiative.

The two neighbourhoods are located to the north of the E-5 highway within Istanbul’s eastern Maltepe district. The neighbourhoods were established informally when immigrant groups from eastern Anatolia (Erzincan, Sivas, Tunceli) arrived in the early 1960s. Soon gecekondus in the area proliferated, forming a dense tapestry, which covers the entire hillside and gradually acquired urban complexity and distinct local identity. Since the 1970s, local activism and solidarity networks formed a unique social tissue, which still endures. This also includes a rich spectrum of collective practices, which provides an insight into the inventiveness, creativity and collective determination of Istanbulites to construct alternative cultural infrastructures based on improvisation and minimum means. Current planning intentions of the municipality seek to exploit the prime real estate value of the neighbourhood, located within an earthquake safe zone and offering unique panoramic views across the Marmara Sea and Princes' Islands. If plans are realized, both neighbourhoods will be replaced with new upmarket housing and most of its inhabitants will be displaced.

The March 2009 municipal elections have led to a change of local government and the promise to replace the radical vision of urban transformation with one more socially inclusive and organic. Numerous, partially heated and controversial discussions are ongoing in the neighbourhood as local residents are in the process of re-defining their relationship to the local municipality: from radical opposition and protest to the attempt to lead a community-driven, alternative planning process. As a first step, the neighbourhood is now in the process to elect local street representatives to form a broad, democratically endorsed representative body that can lead the planning process.