Constructing Containment: Thompson-Starrett, the cesme Beach Houses, and the Geopolitics of American Engineering in Cold War Turkey

TUNÇ T. E., Tunc G.

ENGINEERING STUDIES, vol.12, no.3, pp.195-217, 2020 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 12 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/19378629.2020.1845706
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Compendex
  • Page Numbers: pp.195-217
  • Keywords: Thompson-Starrett, United States, Turkey, Cold War, geopolitics, Americanization
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


For the first half of the twentieth century, Thompson-Starrett and Co., a New York-based American engineering, construction, and contracting firm, dominated the building scene. In operation between 1899 and 1968, it was a leader in skyscraper construction and large-scale projects, and literally built the New York skyline. It designed and constructed the tallest skyscraper of the era, the Woolworth Building, as well as other iconic Manhattan structures such as the Equitable Building, the American Stock Exchange, the New York Municipal Building, and the Claridge, Algonquin, Roosevelt, St. Regis, and Waldorf-Astoria Hotels. A formidable pioneering force in structural engineering a hundred years ago, Thompson-Starrett is, by and large, forgotten today, especially its post-World War II ventures in Turkey, such as the Sariyar Dam and the cesme Beach Houses, a luxury beachfront cooperative located in Ilica, Izmir. However, what would prompt the engineering firm responsible for the Woolworth Building to take on the road and utility construction and project management of a Turkish summer resort? The answer lies in Cold War geopolitics and booming private enterprise, both of which, in the 1950s, converged in Turkey, relied on American engineering, and involved a complex process of Americanization.