In Erdogan’s Turkey, a Building System Fatally Weakened by Corruption

Mehmet Guclu, a young developer with a civil engineering degree, approached his relatives with a plan. Look around, he told them. Somebody’s going to develop this parcel. Better to keep it in the family, to be landlords, to make money.

“He convinced us that he’d build the most magnificent project in our family name,” said Yusuf Guclu, another cousin who lived in the complex. He said that Mehmet had promised to protect against the earthquakes everyone in the region knew to expect.

Mehmet Guclu, then in his 30s, was a charismatic striver with a luxe aesthetic, known for incorporating sleek finishes and expensive materials like marble. He had already built some of the tallest buildings in Antakya.

The extended family had dreamed of exactly this opportunity for years.

The complex was to be a centerpiece of the community — five towers, complete with luxury apartments, retail shops, a pool and a high-end gym.

Mehmet’s career had taken off quickly, in part because of Turkey’s low barriers to entry for civil engineering graduates. Unlike in the United States and United Kingdom, graduates in Turkey do not need to pass certification exams or complete on-the-job training to become an engineer. Architectural trade groups have called for such requirements for years.

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