Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ahşap evler

Threatened and neglected they may be, but Istanbul's old wooden houses are hardly the city's "least appreciated architectural forms" -- at least not by me.

According to a recent article by Reuters, there are perhaps just 250 timber houses left in the whole city. Most of the ones you see are on the verge of collapse; as far as I understand it, historic-protection laws don't allow them to be torn down, so owners who'd rather build a big concrete apartment block on the property have to wait for the elements to do their work.

"The decline of the timber houses began early in the 20th century," Simon Akam wrote for Reuters. "After devastating fires during World War I, the authorities banned construction in wood. In the 1920s foreign minorities -- who dominated the ranks of the skilled craftsman needed to build and maintain the structures -- began to leave. Then, following World War II, the Turkish middle classes started to desert old wooden neighborhoods like Zeyrek and Suleymaniye for more modern accommodation. In their place came poor rural migrants who had neither the means nor the experience to maintain the houses."

Training courses in traditional building construction and repair now being given by the Istanbul Municipality seem to offer some hope, however, that a few of these beauties might be restored to their former glory.


The Turkish Life said...

I would have too; apparently Reuters disagrees. (That's a quote from their news story.)

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

Oops sorry about that.

Emily ohhhsweetturkey said...

Interesting post! When I lived in Istanbul I too loved and wondered why no one was doing anything to them. Thanks for the info and I hope that the woodworking/restoration classes work!

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sallygordon said...

Hi Jen,

I found this post very fascinating, I'm teaching English in Istanbul at the moment, but my background is in historic preservation. I tend to drool when I wander around and see these gorgeous yet dilapidated houses. You mentioned there are some courses for restoration - do you have any more information about that? I'm dying to get involved in historic preservation here but I'm at a loss of how to get started.
Thanks so much for the great blog - keep it up!

johnwilpers said...

Hi, Jen,

This is John Wilpers, the Global Blog Coordinator of the GlobalPost. I tried to reach you via the e-mail address: But I got a "permanent failure" message.

And I see that you haven't posted in a while. Are you still in Turkey?

Anyway, send me your e-mail address so I can send you a message about a change in our procedures.



johnwilpers said...


I forgot to give you my e-mail address:


The Turkish Life said...


Thanks for your comment and sorry it slipped off my radar for so long. Unfortunately, I don't have any additional information about the restoration courses - have you tried tracking down any of the people mentioned in the Reuters article I linked to?

If any other readers have leads for Sally, please post them here!