Prof. Zeynep Ahunbay – Cultural Heritage Protection and Local Governments

Istanbul Technical University, Turkey

In the early years of the Turkish Republic, the responsibility for the care of some monuments and sites related to cities- defense walls, aqueducts, fountains, open spaces and cemeteries- was assigned to municipalities. Until 1973, the law concerning cultural heritage did not provide the means to protect urban and rural sites in their integrity. With the amendment of the law, it became possible to designate entire cities and rural sites. The new law obliged the city councils to develop conservation plans which respected the significant features of the urban and rural sites. During the preparation of urban conservation plans for Gaziantep, Safranbolu, Tarsus and Cumalıkızık the urban fabric was studied carefully by art and architectural historians, architects and planners, documenting and researching all the historic urban features. Inventory cards were prepared for individual buildings; those which had not been noticed before but deserved to be designated were included in the inventory and designated. The development of conservation plans were followed by rehabilitation projects which aimed to raise the quality of life in historic areas. In Turkey Council of Europe’s inventory cards are used for designation of historic buildings and sites. It is important to publish and disseminate the cultural heritage inventories. They are usually published as books. Sometimes the inventory is also accessible at the web-site of the related institution. For citizens, cultural inventories are a source of pride and they help to raise awareness about the site. They also serve as good sources of information for researchers. As time passes, changes occur in historic areas; some buildings are restored, others damaged due to neglect or fire. Thus, the cultural inventories need to be updated. In 1987, an inventory was developed for the Land Walls of Istanbul and the neighboring urban areas. This inventory was revised in 2010 because excavations, and restorations had taken place in the meantime. In 2016, the metropolitan municipality decided to update the cultural inventory files related to Eyüp, Historic Peninsula and Scutari. A multidisciplinary team was set up to work on the sites, documenting the current state of the cultural heritage and conducting research in the archives. In order to prepare the team for work in the field, a training course covering the principles of conservation, methodology for cultural inventory, the archival and published sources about the sites they were going to work on was organized. The conservation of historic cities and rural areas depends largely on the technical and financial support of local governments. Yıldırım district municipality of Bursa has taken the initiative to develop a conservation plan for Cumalıkızık, a historic village within its territory. The municipality spent a long time to prepare restoration projects for the mosque, the bath and historic houses in the village. Financial support for restoration work was provided from the state and the local government’s budget. The efforts proved to be successful. Cumalıkızık is a good example for the active involvement of municipalities in the protection of cultural heritage.

Biographical Information

Zeynep Ahunbay studied architecture at the Technical University of Istanbul (ITU), and became a member of the Faculty of Architecture (ITU), Department of History of Architecture in 1971. Her PhD thesis was on “Seventeenth Century Ottoman Architecture”. She attended the diploma course on Conservation of Historic Structures at the University of York during the academic year 1977/78. She became a full professor in 1988 and until her retirement in 2013, she lectured on Ottoman Architecture, conservation of historic buildings and sites and World Heritage; conducted theses at postgraduate level. She has taken part in several researches, rescue excavations and conservation projects in Turkey and and worked in Bosnia and Kosovo to help restoration of monuments damaged by war. In Turkey, she has worked on the restoration of the Apollo Temple in Side (1977-1991), Land Walls of Istanbul (1991-1994), Hagia Sophia (1994-2000) and Pantocrator Monastery Church (2001-2004). In 2010, she lead a project for the development of a digitized inventory for Istanbul’s cultural heritage. She served as president of ICOMOS Turkey during the years 1999- 2005. She has publications on Ottoman Architecture, conservation of cultural heritage and World Heritage in Turkey.