Identity Crises of Architecture in Istanbul

Istanbul is a place that has everything — structure wise, at least: skyscrapers, enormous mansions, palaces, small houses, and homes that once belonged to Greeks... Many nationalities were once in Istanbul, such as Romans, Byzantines, and Latin. Istanbul is a powerful place, and it has always been. The most significant cultural impact of the city’s architecture is the historic mark of everyone who has passed by over the years. The architectural texture of the city inevitably reflects every detail of Turkish history.


Once, the kings tried to protect Istanbul with Constantinople fortifications in the fifth century, set where the enemy could enter their palaces. Now, we find them as palaces with walls that separate them from the crowded city's transformation-required houses. Rome marked its existence here with the Goths Pillar in the now-so-called Gülhane Park, garden of the Topkapı Palace, with all shine and grace, location of the Architecture Museum.


The Basilica Cisterna, which the municipality has recently renovated, is a historical structure that comes from the times of Byzantine presence in Istanbul. The Basilica Cisterna finally earned its well-deserved reputation after the renovation, as visitors loved the illumination and the glass floors that let them experience everything. This way, Istanbul’s cultural texture is improved, and for once everyone is happy.


Basilica Cistern


Another legacy left by the Byzantine Empire is the numerous Fener-Balat houses. Fener and Balat are two different districts that are always mentioned in the same sentence. Similar cultural textures of life-history marked its existence with lots of religious structures. Nearly all of the churches in these districts are still in use. Their neogothic-style architecture brings a different touch to the Balat houses' wooden framework. Fener Rum Patriarchate is unarguably the most famous one with its golden walls and spiritual objects like a throne left from the 5th century. Aya Triada and St. Antuan follow right behind the Fener Rum Patriarchate. They also welcome the Christian community for their rituals. Photographers love these buildings since they are well-preserved and cleanly decorated with their aesthetic. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church is exceptional and very different from the others. It has white iron anatomy with golden tablatures. It is the first full-iron church in the world.


Bulgarian Orthodox Church


Istanbul is quite an elegant city, but it has some ungraceful sides. Politics create lots of debates, marches, and arguments. After Türkiye became a republic, this place had the most heated debates. After the Gezi Park protests, the architecture in Taksim square became a pendant. It was symbolic of two opposite sides. One political side wanted Atatürk Culture Center gone, the other wanted to keep it. The AKM broke down once, then the building was replaced again. During that time, a mosque was put right in front of the center's broke building. Heavy equipment closed the square for some time. These building wars continued until both sides got what they wanted most: their buildings. Four different styles of buildings are now visible in Taksim. A modern mosque, postmodern Sofitel and Atatürk Culture Center buildings, wooden Balat houses, and neogothic churches.


St. Antuan Church


Sofitel Building


The government and municipality are restoring the buildings, but before the restorations are approved there is always a debate. Every side fights for cultural heritage and does not always allow the other side to build a better structure out of the old building. It does not go without saying that, all restorations are not successful. Usually, they represent another aesthetic, which creates an identity crisis for the whole street. Even though Greek families already left their Balat houses, photographers still fight for nearly tumbledown. They are great for the heritage. A full image of the same or similar aesthetics would be better like in Galata. The problem is that everyone agrees on restoration, and no one sacrifices the texture they are supporting. Still, Istanbul has great places with or without restoration.


Works Cited:

"İstanbul Mimarisi" Vikipedi, https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/İstanbul_mimarisi

"Fener Balat Tarihi Yerleri, Yapıları ve Gezi Rehberi" Yollardan.com, https://www.yollardan.com/fener-balat-gezilecek-yerleri/

"Istanbul'da Görülmesi Gereken En Güzel ve Tarihi Kiliseler" Istanbeautiful, https://istanbeautiful.com/tr/istanbul-kiliseler/

"Yapım ve Yıkım: Bir Savaş Alanı Olarak Taksim Meydanı" MimdapOrg, http://mimdap.org/2019/11/yapym-ve-yykym-mimari-bir-savath-alany-olarak-taksim-meydany/

"Dönüşen Haliç" Arkitera, https://v3.arkitera.com/h19605-donusen-halic.html

"Cumhuriyet Dönemi Mimarlığı" Mimarlık Dergisi, http://www.mimarlikdergisi.com/index.cfm?sayfa=mimarlik&DergiSayi=413&RecID=4357

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