Monday, November 20, 2017

Provincially Ottoman

Defining Ottoman-Balkan Architecture at the Mehmet Ali House, Kavala, Greece
contribution by Bridget Halstead

This post is part of our new series Stambouline in the Classroom
[1] Sign for "Mohamet Ali Street" in Greek and Latin letters, Kavala. Photo by Emily Neumeier.
The phrase “Ottoman architecture” poses potential complications to the study of buildings in Ottoman lands.  A distinctive stylistic category of “Ottoman Architecture” is particularly difficult to define within the eighteenth-century empire. In the context of this period, the term  does not connote a distinctive, empire-wide aesthetic architectural movement led by Istanbul, but rather suggests some measure of synthesis between the traditions of the central empire and its outlying regions. 

[2] Exterior view of the Mehmet Ali House. Creative Commons License.

[3] Portrait of Mehmet Ali Pasha, Auguste
Couder, 1841. Palace of Versailles,
Image in public doma
The Mehmet Ali House, located in Kavala, in the Macedonia region of Greece, is significant among eighteenth-century residential structures because it exemplifies these ongoing debates over the definition of “Ottoman architecture” and over Ottoman architectural legacy in the Balkans. [Figures 1 & 2] Because this house was constructed in 1720, before the creation of national boundaries in the Balkans, it cannot be considered a characteristically “nationalist” Greek, Albanian, or Macedonian structure.  It is instead an example of a synthetic “Ottoman core” or “Rumi” architectural style in which the design of residential structures was largely consistent across large central swaths of the empire, and in which regional ornamental or decorative variants, if they existed, were present in such a way that they did not obfuscate the consistent form of the “Ottoman core”-style structure. In addition, the house’s role as the family home of Mehmet Ali, an Ottoman military official who in the early nineteenth century declared himself governor of Egypt and instituted military and economic reforms--actions that earned him the title “Founder of Modern Egypt"--marks this house as historically significant not only to the Balkan region, but also to Egypt. 

Modern nationalist historiography has attempted to ascribe national origin for various architectural styles in formerly Ottoman-occupied nation states.  Ottoman structures like the Mehmet Ali House, however, espouse a necessarily synthetic Ottoman architectural style, as they were constructed before the advent of national boundaries. Maurice Cerasi proposes that a “core area” of Ottoman architecture, in which domestic residential architectural styles were largely consistent, existed in the swath of land between Anatolia and Rumeli, extending to Thessaly in the south and Bosnia to the east (130). Tülay Artan, similarly, dubs this necessarily synthetic architectural style “Rumi” due to its “fusion of monumental and residential” aesthetic elements (99). Artan, like Cerasi, proposes that this synthetic architectural style was not the result of conscious cultural and aesthetic fusion, but rather came about as the result not only of a simultaneously “reconstructing” and decentralizing system of imperial power, but also of cultural dialogue and “power-sharing arrangements” between the provinces and Istanbul.

Because of its location inside this “core area,” the Mehmet Ali House’s wooden brackets, two-story stone and mortar structure, and large windows on the exterior are extremely similar to other “Rumi” residential structures. Its tile roof and ornamental features, however, are distinctively Balkan. In defining an Ottoman-Balkan legacy, therefore, this house presents evidence of a pre-nationalist synthetic architectural culture which, though tinged with some ornamental features specific to residential structures in the Macedonia region, was common to the “core area” of the empire.  The house itself is a refutation of nationalist historiographies, which tend to champion singular origins for architectural style and to characterize Ottoman residential aesthetics as having overpowered distinct, national-provincial styles that existed before Ottoman incursions into the Balkans.

The Balkan region as a whole represented an extremely valuable zone that affected the financial and social standing of the empire. Frederick Anscombe writes that, “in terms of population, economic vitality, and imperial prestige, the Balkans constituted the most important part of the Ottoman domains, giving a European aspect to an empire commonly imagined as ‘Asiatic’" (574). Despite his emphasis on the strategic importance of the Balkans, Anscombe’s argument segregates the Balkans from the center. Here, the Balkans are not only of strategic and financial importance to the imperial center, but are also construed as pivotal Western elements of the Ottoman Empire. Cerasi’s delineation of a “core area” of influence for Ottoman residential architecture, however, frames the Balkans as having synthesized architectural styles with the center. In dialogue with this, Artan classifies Rumelia, rather than Anatolia, as the aesthetic center and “richest heartland” of the empire, due to its essentially synthetic architectural styles and economic vitality (100-101). Where Anscombe’s framework emphasizes the cultural disparity between the center and the Balkan provinces, Cerasi’s “core area” thesis and Artan’s “Rumi” conception promote a synthetic framework that is reflected in the integrated architectural style of the Mehmet Ali House.

The Mehmet Ali House as Architectural Artifact
The Mehmet Ali House, built in 1720, covers 2,079 square meters. Its two-story construction is typical of the “core area” architectural style. As depicted in Figure 2 and 3, the house utilizes a narrow stone base with a jutting second story supported by wooden cantilever beams. 
[3] Another view of the Mehmet Ali house from the
south. Photo by Emily Neumeier.
These features are common to “core area” domestic architecture because they are found not only in residential structures found in the Macedonia region like the Mehmet Ali House, but also in domestic architecture found across the imperial “core,” including areas of Anatolia.  This two-story wood-beamed structure, then, can be considered the elemental basis upon which synthetic “Ottoman architecture” can be built.

In the case of the Mehmet Ali House, regional architectural elements are present in the house’s jutting second story and tiled roof. These design elements were common in what is now continental Greece and Macedonia, and in the Mehmet Ali House are imposed onto the “core area” structural base of the house. As illustrated in Figures 2 and 3, the house’s balconies and tile roof not only customize the imported “core area” structure but also utilize the house’s strategic location. The Mehmet Ali House stands upon a scenic overlook; the back of the house faces the Aegean. [Figure 4]

[4] View from the sea of the historic citadel of Kavala, where the Mehmet Ali House is located. Photo by Emily Neumeier.

Here, the addition of balconies may not have been, as nationalist frameworks would suggest, a conscious imposition of regional architectural elements onto the stone-and-protruding-mortar construction of the “core structure,” but rather an attempt to capitalize on the house’s strategic location. The tiled roof, moreover, may have served a practical purpose. Cerasi suggests that certain ornamental elements found in the Macedonia region were informed by ancient Greek architecture. The use of a tiled roof may have been due to available supplies in the area.  

It is important to remember that these Macedonian architectural features were not imposed onto residential structures like the Mehmet Ali House out of a nationalistic aesthetic fervor.  They were instead included due to a process of synthesis which, over time, slightly modified the common “Rumi” structure due to a natural process of cultural and aesthetic fusion.  

This “core area” architecture, however, was not a specific set of architectural or aesthetic guidelines handed to the provinces from Istanbul, but was instead the result of a slow process of hybridity. Similarities in architecture were due less to central imperial desires to quash difference - cultural, aesthetic, or religious - in the provinces than they were to the desire of provincial notables to emulate the building styles of Istanbul. In the context of the de-centralizing eighteenth-century empire, in which changes to the tax system allowed wealthy provincial power-holders to amass more wealth and resources, this emulation of central styles allowed provincial notables to demonstrate their cosmopolitanism, while distinctive provincial changes, such as the tile roof on the Mehmet Ali house, allowed them to erect domestic structures which were in dialogue with regional aesthetic forms. The fusion of local ornamentation and core area-style structural design on the Mehmet Ali House, then, was not only a result of the house’s position within the core architectural region of the empire, but also of an increasingly-available architectural synthesis that occurred as a natural result of political and social changes in the eighteenth century empire. While the house retains its distinctively “Ottoman core” form, the addition of a tiled roof and balconies allow it to be distinguished from hybrid styles in other areas of the empire.

In this sense, decentralization accelerated the process of architectural synthesis in the empire’s dynamic [Balkan] heartlands, and residential constructions like the Mehmet Ali House took on an inherently synthetic architectural style. Here, Artan’s discussion of a necessarily synthetic “Rumi” architecture is again applicable: the “interactive patronage” between the Balkans and center was not only spurred by decentralizing wealth and political power, but was also encouraged by cultural and ethnic interaction in the provinces. Because of this, structures like the Mehmet Ali House espoused an essentially integrated architectural aesthetic. This style is both fully Balkan and fully Ottoman; neither architectural tradition enveloped the other, but the two rather meshed to form a hybrid, synthetic style of “Ottoman architecture.” 

Impositions of a Nationalist Framework
Şuhnaz Yılmaz and İpek Yosmaoğlu outline a view that contends that, in the Balkans, Ottoman rule disputed “the otherwise natural development of various nations” (679-80). The application of a nationalist framework assumes that modern nationalist sentiment existed in some form in the premodern Ottoman provinces. In the context of architecture, however, regional ornamental and decorative variants of the type used in the Mehmet Ali House are not representative of a concerted effort to pit regional Macedonian, Balkan, or provincial cultural capital against the might of aesthetic encroachment from the imperial center, but rather of a gradual stylistic synthesis that occurred organically. The traditional historiographic view outlined above imposes a nation-based rationale on the premodern workings of the Ottoman Empire that is incongruous with the synthetic cultural contact illustrated architecturally through the Mehmet Ali House.

The traditional nationalist framework identified by Yılmaz and Yosmaoğlu would signify some measure of cultural conflict in the architecture of the house. As outlined above, however, the synthesis of architectural elements likely occurred organically, as evidenced by the largely intact, centrally-wrought “core structure” of the house.

Nationalist historiographical “myths” that aim to place Ottoman and provincial cultures at odds in order to characterize Ottoman rule as “an era of oppression, humiliation, and resistance” (Anatov 2016: 33), then, are not reflected in the synthetic definition of Ottoman architecture proposed here or illustrated through the Mehmet Ali House.

[5] Public square next to the Mehmet Ali House: Statue of Mehmet Ali (left) that was dedicated by King Fuad I of Egypt, and the Church of the Dormition (right). Photo by Emily Neumeier

The Mehmet Ali House in Modern Context
The synthetic architectural style of this house is also reflected in its present ownership.  Currently, the house itself is the property of the Egyptian government, due to a continuation of early twentieth-century Egyptian waqfs, or charitable endowments, instated before the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, while its gardens are the property of the Municipality of Kavala. Here, again, the nationally-distinct architectural model fails. The two-state holding of the Mehmet Ali House illustrates the extent to which each nation claims architectural-cultural descendance from the Ottoman-style house.

Ornamentally-fused Ottoman-provincial architectural styles of buildings like the Mehmet Ali House represent a larger pattern of cultural synthesis. The surrounding neighborhood, Panagia, also reflects this architectural hybridity. The house’s location between a Greek Orthodox Church and a mosque dating to the sixteenth century exemplifies the extent of these synthetic cultural and aesthetic factors. A modern statue of Mehmet Ali stands between the house itself and the Orthodox church. [Figure 5] In these surroundings, the house’s architectural hybridity is expressed both environmentally and religiously; because these structures existed while the Mehmet Ali House was occupied, they indicate that some measure of cultural synthesis was already at work in Kavala. 

[6] The multi-lingual signage found above the doorway
of the Mehmet Ali House. Photo by Isabelle
Parshall, 2016.
Some measure of the house’s architectural hybridity, moreover, is acknowledged on the signage above its front door, which proclaims the name of the building in Ottoman Turkish, French, and Greek and which has hung above the house since at least the early twentieth century. [Figures 6 & 7] Here, both the regional Macedonian and central Ottoman impacts on the house’s architecture are overtly expressed. Though both the Egyptian government and the Municipality of Kavala hold separate waqf claims to different portions of the house and surrounding land, the expression of complex influences expressed in the multi-lingual signage indicate that both governmental claimants acknowledge some level of architectural and cultural hybridity is at work in the design and existence of the house.

[7] Late 19th or early 20th-century postcard depicting the
multi-lingual signange at the Mehmet Ali House.
Photo in the public domain.

It is interesting, finally, to note that modern tourism documents from the Municipality of Kavala describe the house has having been “based on Macedonian architecture” rather than Ottoman architecture. Despite the inherently synthetic nature of the house’s architectural style, and despite the municipality’s de-facto acceptance of this synthesis through its shared claim with Egypt, the city of Kavala markets the house as a purely Macedonian structure. In doing this, the Municipality is attempting to impose a nationalist origin on the culturally-fused house and to lay claim to its cultural and architectural capital. This national-origin claim may be intended to encourage tourism to the region of Macedonia or to erase some measure of Ottoman impact in the region to unfamiliar visitors, but, in describing this synthetic “Ottoman architecture” structure as “Macedonian architecture,” the official materials fail to account for the extent to which local and “Ottoman core” aesthetic styles fused and worked in tandem in the creation of the Mehmet Ali House.

It is inappropriate, therefore, to characterize the Mehmet Ali House as having a single pre-national stylistic origin. Ottoman architectural styles are necessarily synthetic because of the expanse of the empire, and this site illustrates this synthesis in both its “core-style” structure and distinctive Macedonian ornamentation and its physical location. Cerasi writes that the “typical” Ottoman house type was a style which fused Byzantine, Greek, Turkish, and Central Asian elements: “All these elements were well known to the diverse groups dwelling or working in western Ottoman towns…the Ottoman house did not exist as a coherent type before these many ethnic and cultural elements were integrated” (133-34). “Ottoman architecture” as a term is imprecise and insufficient to describe the hybridity and synthesis of these “core area” architectural styles and, despite attempts in later historiography to impose national origins or national frameworks onto Ottoman residential architecture like the Mehmet Ali House, these sites retained an aesthetic and architectural stylistic hybridity which fused a basic architectural form from the imperial center with decorative or ornamental forms from the provinces. Ottoman architecture, then, cannot be defined within a nationalist framework because, as a style, it is pre-nationalist. The Mehmet Ali House exemplifies both this synthesis of style and the ongoing debate over the terms on which “Ottoman architecture” can be defined.  

Works Cited and Further Reading:
Anatov, Nikolay. “Emergence and Historical Development of Muslim Communities in the Ottoman Balkans: Historical and Historiographical Remarks.”  In Beyond Mosque, Church, and State: Alternative Narratives of Nation in the Balkans, edited by Theodora Dragostinova and Yana Hashamova. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2016.

Anscombe, Frederick. “The Balkan Revolutionary Age.” The Journal of Modern History 84 (2012): 572-606.

Artan, Tülay. “Questions of Ottoman Identity and Architectural History.” In Rethinking Architectural Historiography, edited by Dana Arnold et al, pp. 85-109. London: Routledge, 2006.

El Ashmouni, Marwa and Katharine Bartsch. “Egypt’s Age of Transition: Unintentional Cosmopolitanism During the Reign of Muhammad ‘Ali (1805-1848).” Arab Studies Quarterly 36 (2014): 43-74.

Cerasi, Maurice. “The Formation of Ottoman House Types: A Comparative Study in Interaction with Neighboring Cultures.” Muqarnas 15 (1998): 116-156.

Colvin, Peter. “Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the School of Oriental and African Studies Library.” Libraries and Culture 33 (1998): 249-59.  

Hartmuth, Maximilian.  “De-Constructing a ‘Legacy in Stone’: Of Interpretive and Historiographical Problems Concerning the Ottoman Cultural Heritage in the Balkans.”  Middle Eastern Studies 44 (2008): 695-713.

Hartmuth, Maximilian. “The History of Centre-Periphery Relations as a History of Style in Ottoman Provincial Architecture.” Paper presented at Centres and Peripheries in Ottoman Architecture: Establishing a Balkan Heritage, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hersegovina, April 22-24, 2010.

“Kavala: One Destination.”

Lalenis, Konstantinos and Elena Samourkasidou. “Wakfs in Kavala, Greece: A Legal, Political, and Architectural Heritage Issue.” International Journal of Architectural Research 7 (2013): 206-220.

“Municipality of Kavala.”

Yılmaz, Şuhnaz and İpek Yosmaoğlu. “Fighting the Spectres of the Past: Dilemmas of Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans and the Middle East.” Middle Eastern Studies 44 (2008): 677-693.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Church, Mosque, Museum

The Byzantine Institute and Preserving the Fethiye and Kariye Camii in Istanbul
contribution by Jessica Cebra
[1] Fethiye Camii, Istanbul, 1957: South wall of the main vaulted space showing rounded arch added in the Ottoman period. Photo by the Byzantine Institute (MSBZ004-H57.915)

The numerous architectural reconstructions and renovations in Istanbul today often raise several questions in regards to historic preservation. And while previous essays featured on stambouline have primarily focused on Ottoman monuments, many Byzantine sites have suffered similar fates of so-called “preservation” or “renewal,” most recently the Zeyrek Camii (Pantocrator Monastery) and the Tekfur Sarayi (Palace of Porfyrogennitos) in the Fatih neighborhood. Both monuments have undergone costly restorations, sacrificing historical accuracy in favor of commercial development and promoting cultural narratives tailored for the current government’s political agenda. Preservation of architectural heritage is inevitably challenging when a building has possessed various identities and has served many functions and communities over time. Depending on which life of a building one wishes to revive, a building can be altered, renovated, or restored many different ways. Though many of the recent reconstructions are favorable over utter demolition, they clearly lack the acknowledgement and use of resources and scholarship that are available to accomplish more historically accurate preservation. The suppression or destruction of certain cultural characteristics and the emphasis and preservation of others has been part of an ongoing reclamation of history between modern Greek and neo-Ottomanist narratives in the heritage preservation landscape of Istanbul.

[2] Byzantine Institute Staff and Thomas
Whittemore restoring the mosaics at Hagia
Sophia, 1936. Photo by the Byzantine Institute

We can look back to the early Republican years of Turkey for somewhat similar examples of this push-and-pull dynamic, when Atatürk balanced Western influence and nationalist urges to commence sweeping societal changes, including the secularization of mosques that had originally been constructed as Byzantine churches, such as Hagia Sophia, Kariye Camii, Fethiye Camii [Fig. 1], and Imrahor Camii. These buildings were deemed national monuments and became museums, though the structures first required consolidation and repair, with the decorative mosaics and wall paintings within in need of uncovering, cleaning, and preservation after centuries of being concealed. This work would be undertaken by the Byzantine Institute, a US organization founded by the enigmatic aesthete turned humanitarian and preservationist Thomas Whittemore [Fig. 2]. Though, unlike many of the current projects taking place today that alter and replace, the Byzantine Institute was grounded in scholarship and specialized craftsmanship, and was careful to bring buildings and artworks to a historically accurate condition, to the best of their ability, while comprehensively documenting their condition before any changes commenced. The wealth of documentation and research produced by the Byzantine Institute allows the many lives of centuries old architecture to be exposed.

[3] Fethiye Camii, 1948: Fieldworker exposing 
a fragment of mosaic from beneath the white 
plasterPhoto by the Byzantine Institute 
“His mind, he once confided to a friend, was always in Istanbul,” Charles King writes about Whittemore in his Midnight at the Pera Palace [p. 273], a portrait of Istanbul between the wars. Whittemore, from Massachusetts, traveled widely and dabbled in a variety of interests before finding his calling in aiding refugees escaping the Bolsheviks during the First World War, and became a central figure of the relief effort in Istanbul, arranging housing and education for exiled families and their children. He established schools with the support of the Committee for the Education of Russian Youth in Exile where he encountered students that he would later employ at the Byzantine Institute. Whittemore also engaged with artists who had to leave the Russian Institute in Constantinople (RAIK) when it shut down in 1914. The RAIK artists primarily painted replicas of Byzantine art for display abroad to raise public awareness and to produce copies for preservation purposes. Whittemore was convinced of the importance of these artworks, and, with his incredible ability to convince others and to gain their patronage, he established the Byzantine Institute in 1929/1930 to preserve Byzantine art and architecture. After enough funds were raised and negotiations made with Turkey’s Council of Ministers, Whittemore was authorized to preserve the remains of Byzantine churches in Istanbul, beginning with Hagia Sophia [see Fig. 2]. While there is photographic evidence that Whittemore had met with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, there is no clear understanding of the extent of the president's involvement with granting the permissions to the Byzantine Institute.
[4] Fethiye Camii: Arch between south arm and
southeast bay of the Parakklesion, south soffit.
A Mosaic of Saint Blasius can be seen partially
uncovered. Photo by the Byzantine Institute 
The Byzantine Institute operated between a Boston office, their Paris library, and Istanbul fieldwork sites. One of their most notable and well-known accomplishments was the mosaic preservation at Hagia Sophia in the 1930s-1950s. After Whittemore’s passing in 1950, the Byzantine Institute’s fieldwork projects continued under the direction and supervision of Dumbarton Oaks staff in Washington, DC, and expanded to other areas of Turkey as well as Cyprus, Macedonia and Syria. In addition to the meticulous work of their fieldworkers and conservators, the Byzantine Institute was prolific in their documentation. Field notebooks, drawings, tracings, films and countless photographs fill the organizations archive at Dumbarton Oaks. The photographs are especially unique and invaluable because they not only document the Byzantine art and architecture that was being preserved, but also capture the processes and techniques of a relatively new realm of conservation, that of Byzantine mosaics [Figs. 3 & 4]. These photographs also stand as proof of the diligence that the Institute exercised in capturing the buildings and spaces as they were found, documenting the Ottoman architectural additions and alterations, plastered-over walls, and mosque furnishings and decorations.

[5] Exterior view from southwest, Fethiye Camii; Left, before restoration, 1937 (PHBZ010-ICFA.NA.0148); Right, after restoration, 1938 (PHBZ010-ICFA.NA.0252). Photos by Nicholas V. Artamonoff.

[6] Exterior view from east, Fethiye Camii, 1948:
Byzantine-era south chapel (parekklesion) apse
to the left, Ottoman-era apse to the right. by
the Byzantine Institute (MSBZ004-FC-2008-4)
The Fethiye Camii (Monastery of Theotokos Pammakaristos) is one of the Comnenian era, or 11th-12th-century, structures that the Byzantine Institute focused on between 1949-1963. The building had undergone a previous renovation in 1937-1938 [Fig.5], but was in much need of internal structural restoration to bring it more closely to its original Byzantine design, which was greatly modified from the 16th-18th centuries after the Ottomans converted it into a mosque in 1586. Though the main church structure was to remain a functioning mosque with the Ottoman-era apse kept intact [Fig.6], the parekklesion, or south chapel, which had exceptional remains of 14th-century mosaic decoration, was to become a museum.

[7] Plan of the Fethiye Camii, illustrating
the alterations made over time including
the Ottoman additions. After Hawkins
and Mango, 1964.
Throughout the Byzantine era, alterations of architecture were quite normal, as buildings would be changed according to their surroundings and uses, the ambitions of their patrons, and the needs of constituents. The plan of the Fethiye Camii [Fig.7] illustrates the various phases of construction over time, including the later Ottoman additions and changes. For example, the original triple arcades surrounding the square nave in the main church were all replaced with large pointed arches, and rounded arches elsewhere in the 16th century. During the process, columns were removed to make the space feel as open and expansive as possible.

As it stands now, the mosque interior in the main prayer space doesn't look much different from a series of photographs taken in 1957, when the walls had been uncovered and photographed [Fig. 8, see Fig. 1]. They were quickly plastered back over in 1960. 

[8] Fethiye Camii, 1957: Left, mihrab in the Ottoman apse of the main church structure, looking southeast (MSBZ004-H57.897); right, main vaulted space, looking west from apse (MSBZ004-H57.904). Photo by the Byzantine Institute. 

[9] Fethiye Camii: Parekklesion, interior looking
north, before restoration. Photo b
y the Byzantine 
Institute (MSBZ004-F-55-61-1)
Since then, carpet has been laid down, the mihrab has been tiled over, and colored glass glazes the windows, but the walls remain painted white with modest decoration and the minbar sits awkwardly between the nave and the parekklesion. The most extensive changes made by the Byzantine Institute were in the parekklesion, where the Ottoman stone arches were reverted back to their smaller brick ones [Figs. 9 & 10] to better complement the reinstalled columns and uncovered mosaic decoration in the space.

[10] Fethiye Camii: Parekklesion, interior looking north; Left, during restoration (MSBZ004-H63-259); Right, after restoration (MSBZ004-FC-55-63-5). Photo by the Byzantine Institute.
“There was probably no better preservative...than Muslim conquest,” writes King [p. 270], referring to the interior decorations of Byzantine churches, which during the later Ottoman period were often plastered and whitewashed over to conceal figural representations while the buildings were being used as mosques. King's statement does not mean to negate the highly destructive invasions throughout the early Ottoman period, but points to the fact that many of these artworks had previously suffered varying degrees of damage through the iconoclastic years, as well as from looting and earthquakes; and though the Ottomans dealt with the decorative programs in a low-cost and efficient manner by covering them up, in one sense they were protecting the decorations by keeping them physically concealed and visually out of sight. 

[11] Kariye Camii, Istanbul, 1937: Nave, view towards apse before mosque was secularized (PHBZ010-ICFA.NA.0133). Photo by Nicholas V. Artamonoff.
In addition to the Fethiye Camii, the Byzantine Institute worked simultaneously at the 12th-14th-century structure Kariye Camii (Christ of the Chora church) from 1947 until 1958. The Chora is an interesting case because the mosaic decoration was never fully covered in the Ottoman period. The building was converted to a mosque sometime between 1495-1511 [Fig.11], but travel accounts by visitors describe the mosaics being visible well into the 18th century -the landmark was known as the “Mosaic Museum”- and were only partially concealed thereafter. On the other hand, the wall paintings in the parekklesion were completely covered with whitewash – a new preservation challenge for the Byzantine Institute staff [Fig.12]. That is, calcium crystals that had formed in humid environmental conditions and other organic growths from the lyme in the paint added more layers to be carefully removed from the painting surfaces.

[12] Kariye Camii: Left, parekklesion, view towards east, 1951 (MSBZ004-K604-51-158); Right,  fieldworker Constantine Tsaousis conserving a section of wall painting on the south wall, 1957 (MSBZ004-K604-57-154). Photo by the Byzantine Institute. 

Fieldwork was temporarily halted after September 6, 1955 due to the riots and violence in Istanbul against the Greek community, instigated by rumors that a Turkish consulate in Greece was set aflame. Fieldwork staff corresponded with Dumbarton Oaks Director John Thacher and described the horrific events:
I’ve just returned this morning from an inspection of the places where we are working after a terrible night in which all Greek and other minority shops were destroyed, many Greek houses terribly damaged and their goods thrown out into the streets, many Greek churches burned… I was terribly relieved to see that Kariye had not suffered and that Pammakaristos was also spared. I have asked the director of Ayasofya to send another guard to sleep at Kariye tonight.
[13] Kariye Camii, ca. 1950s: Fieldworkers replacing
wall reinforcements (MSBZ004-BF.S.1991.0246).
Photo by Carroll Wales.
Some of the fieldworkers and their families were victims of the riots, and the project budgets received additional funding to take care of the personal damages incurred. Despite the atmosphere of tension at the time, the diverse group of fieldworkers maintained comradery and a peaceful workplace. Wales elaborated on their working arrangement in his oral history. Fieldworkers who identified as Greek Orthodox would work on mosaics and paintings that depicted iconographic scenes and figures, and those who identified as Muslims and therefore may not have been fully comfortable working on Christian representational art would fulfill other tasks relating to the architecture, such as repairs to the roofing, floors, minaret, and other structural reinforcements [Figs.13-15]. Yet everyone would come together during breaks to sit outside and play multiple games of tavla.

[14] Front facade of the Kariye Camii, ca. 1950s: The minaret is under repair (MSBZ004-BF.S.1991.0243). Photo by Carroll Wales.
[15] Kariye Camii, 1958: Fieldworker bringing the dome
 or minaret finial back to its original brilliant shine, one
of the final touches before the museum opened
(MSBZ004-H58.143). Photo by the Byzantine Institute.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople naturally took interest in the revival of the Chora, but made a diplomatic decision to not visit the building while the work was taking place. He wanted to avoid any socio-political tensions or suspicions that might be raised by the restoration of Christian iconography in a former mosque. Instead, Wales and his assistant Constantine Tsaousis would pay visits to the Patriarch to report on the progress of work. The fieldwork director Paul Underwood wrote extensive project reports both to keep Turkish officials informed and for publication purposes. While Whittemore did not live to see the outcome of the Kariye Camii conservation, he was the driving force that allowed the gem of the Chora and its distinguished mosaic and wall painting decoration to remain uncovered and accessible to visitors from all over the world. An exhibition of the fieldwork took place in 2007 at the Pera Museum, and in its exhibition catalog Natalia Teteriatnikov mused [p. 37]: 
It was no coincidence that Thomas Whittemore, the founder and director of the Byzantine Institute, was also director of the Committee for the Education of Russian Youth in Exile. Being in Europe during World War I and in Russia from 1914 to 1918 and on later occasions, Whittemore witnessed human tragedy as well as the destruction of monuments. The unique position of the United States after World War I combined with Whittemore’s experience in Russian relief work, his archaeological activities, and his international contacts and influential friends were the factors that facilitated the development of the Byzantine Institute of America.
The Kariye Camii and Fethiye Camii are still museums today under the jurisdiction of the Hagia Sophia Museum. The buildings and their decorations are still at risk due to the urban environmental conditions caused by an ever-expanding city, and the ravages of time. The photographs made by the Byzantine Institute document additional sites and artworks that are no longer accessible or no longer exist. The Image Collection and Fieldwork Archives at Dumbarton Oaks continues to make these images available online. The photographs of Fethiye Camii, Hagia Sophia, and other sites have already been made available here. The images of Kariye Camii will soon be added, and all of these photographs will eventually be viewable through Harvard's HOLLIS Images online database.

JESSICA CEBRA is departmental assistant in the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.

Citation: "Church, Mosque, Museum: The Byzantine Institute and Preserving the Fethiye and Kariye Camii in Istanbul," Jessica Cebra, Stambouline (September 10, 2017).

Primary Sources:
Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, Dumbarton Oaks, Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.
-MS.BZ.004 The Byzantine Institute and Dumbarton Oaks Fieldwork Records and Papers, ca. late 1920s-2000s 
-PH.BZ.010 Nicholas V. Artamonoff Photographs of Istanbul and Turkey, 1935-1945 

Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C.
-Oral history interview with Carroll F. Wales, 1992 November 10-1993 February 11

More Reading:
Belting, Hans, Cyril A. Mango, and Doula Mouriki. The Mosaics and Frescoes of St. Mary Pammakaristos (Fethiye Camii) at Istanbul. Dumbarton Oaks Studies 15. Locust Valley, N.Y: Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, 1978.

Holger A. Klein, Robert G. Ousterhout, Brigitte Pitarakis. Kariye: From Theodore Metochites to Thomas Whittemore: One monument, Two Monumental Personalities. Istanbul: Pera Müzesi, 2007.

King, Charles. Midnight at the Pera Palace: The Birth of Modern Istanbul. New York: W.W. Norton, 2014.

Mango, Cyril, and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. "Report on Field Work in Istanbul and Cyprus, 1962-1963." Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964): 319-40.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fabric of the Past, Questions for the Future

Restoring the Narmanlı Han
contribution by Emily Neumeier
[1] Plaque announcing the street address above the doorway of the Narmanlı Han, 2014.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos by the author. 

[2] The Narmanlı Han on İstiklal Avenue, 2014.
Every day, thousands of people stream past the historic Narmanlı Han on İstiklal Avenue. Standing at the southern terminus of what is perhaps Istanbul’s best-known street, this low yet imposing building is currently closed to visitors—as it has already been for quite some time. And, for the last year, the distinctive curved façade of the Narmanlı Han has been shrouded behind a framework of scaffolding. [Figs. 2 & 3] The white canvas tarp that today covers the building presents to pedestrians a flat, two-dimensional projection of the architecture behind (while, at the same time, serving as a subtle promotion for the Avea cellphone company). Those in charge of the restoration project presumably put up this covering in an effort to create a street presence for the Narmanlı Han even while the building is undergoing renovation: a conciliatory gesture in response to sharp criticism of the first iteration of scaffolding that went up late in 2014, which essentially transformed the Narmanlı Han into a giant, boxy advertisement for the newest iPhone

[3] The Narmanlı Han behind scaffolding, 2015.

Even though this new, two-dimensional Narmanlı Han can be counted as a victory by those trying to save İstiklal from turning into one continuous billboard, the current appearance of the façade still raises questions about current preservation projects in Istanbul. Ultimately, the flat white canvas obscures the building itself from view, and, through the magic of AutoCAD, all of the Narmanlı Han’s cracks, blemishes and chipping plaster have been white-washed away. What remains is a clean, modern abstraction of the Narmanlı Han’s most essential design elements—a vague promise of what is in store for the building itself and its impending restoration. 

[4] Sign and gate blocking access to the inner courtyard of the  Narmanlı Han, 2014.

In the past several years, buildings on İstiklal have been disappearing left and right, all of them withdrawing behind flimsy walls of thin wood panels or corrugated steel. The pace of urban renewal has picked up to such an extent that the street has taken on the appearance of a large open-air conservatory, with many structures wrapped up and sitting in various stages of gestation—sometimes months, but more likely years. Residents eye these cocoons warily, wondering what will finally emerge once the scaffolding falls away. The public has been given plenty of reasons to remain on their guard when it comes to historical preservation in Beyoğlu. The notorious Act 5366, or the “Law on the Protection of Deteriorated Historic and Cultural Heritage through Renewal and Re-use,” empowered local municipal authorities to declare the heart of the Tarlabaşı neighborhood a “regeneration” area.  These legal acrobatics meant that the low-income residents who lived inside the renewal zone were forced to sell their homes, which were then sold to a third-party developer who is currently in the process of completely bulldozing and replacing the buildings with high-end apartment blocks.  

[5] Projected recreation of the Ottoman Barracks, 2013.
Screen grab from video on
Just a few years later, the 2013 Gezi Park protests were sparked by the Taksim Redevelopment Project, which included the reincarnation of the long-gone 19th-century Ottoman barracks [Top Kişla] in the form of a large shopping mall.  [Fig. 5] The clear mobilization of Ottoman architectural heritage—and a monument that specifically emphasizes imperial military strength—as a vehicle for the current government’s neo-liberal politics was not lost on many critics.  After overwhelming protest and civil unrest, the Taksim barracks project seems to have finally been abandoned.

[6] Entrance to the Demirören shopping center, 2014.

Meanwhile, the most controversial example of an urban “renewal” project on İstiklal itself is unquestionably the Demirören shopping center, which opened in March 2011. [Fig. 6] A bizarre imitation of the 19th-century Deveaux apartment building that once stood on the site, the Demirören complex came under fire in both the press and in a report prepared by the Inspection Board of the Ministry of Culture [Kültür Bakanlığı Teftiş Kurulu] for allegedly exceeding the original proportions of the historic façade as well as the square footage that was approved for the project by the Renewal Board [Yenileme Kurulu] in 2007.  Although the offending expansions were reported to be “trimmed,” it is still not clear what exact modifications were made to the site in order to meet the specifications of the approved building permit. 

[7] Demirören shopping center, 2014.
A banner hung on the northern side of the Demirören center shortly after its opening shows an old black and white photo of the Deveaux apartment building before the fire of 1890, directly above a photograph of the new shopping complex. [Fig. 7] The banner invites pedestrians to compare the two buildings side by side, with a text that triumphantly proclaims: “[In] the 2011 Demirören [on] İstiklal, the Deveaux lives in all of its splendor.” The photographs have cleverly been composed, re-sized and cropped in such a way that suggests the new Demirören is simply a cleaned-up version of the older structure. This graphic sleight of hand obscures the fact that the new façade has been dramatically stretched both horizontally and vertically: a Deveaux Apartman on steroids. 

The story of projects like Demirören have put activists and the more general public on edge whenever a new set of scaffolding goes up in Beyoğlu. They fear the literal and metaphoric lack of transparency that the scaffolding represents, another potential bait-and-switch situation that will only come to light once the damage had been irreversibly done. 

Back around 2000, it seemed as if the Narmanlı Han might meet such a fate. After most of the tenants had left so that the building could undergo repairs, the architect Halil Onur, who would go on to design the Ottoman Barracks mall for Taksim, was brought in for the project. Onur allegedly envisaged adding three extra stories to the existing two-level building, a plan that would have significantly altered the scale and character of the historic structure that was supposedly being “restored.”  The plan also probably would not have left much, if anything, of the Narmanlı Han’s surviving fabric, whose condition had deteriorated even further after the building had been left closed and untended for several years waiting for its restoration. Once Onur’s proposal was approved by the Preservation Board [Koruma Kurulu], it seemed likely, if not inevitable, that the Narmanlı Han would soon be replaced with a distorted simulacrum of its former self. Yet a couple of NGOs brought the case to court, in the end successfully staying the project  

Although the threat of the Disney-fication of the Narmanlı Han had been temporarily averted, the building continued to languish, with the entrance to the open courtyard barricaded and several of the shops facing İstiklal permanently shuttered. Signs posted in the windows affirmed that retail owners had been obliged to move on to other locations. [Fig. 8] Then, in early 2014, the owners of the Narmanlı Han decided to sell the property in its entirety to two businessmen, Mehmet Erkul and Tekin Esen, for $57 million. Fully aware of the tense situation into which they had inserted themselves, the new owners were quick to try to allay concerns about their plans for the building, assuring reporters that they had no intention to significantly alter the proportion or design of the Narmanlı Han as it stood, nor did they seek to demolish the fabric of the historic structure.  

[8] The Narmanlı Han’s closed storefronts on İstiklal, 2014.

Although drawings or projection models for the future site have yet to be made public, more concrete details about what is in store for the building came early last year from Sinan Genim, the new architect hired for the restoration project. Genim explained in an interview that no extra floors would be added to the existing structure, and that the interior courtyard would remain open. With a relatively small footprint (1000 square meters, as compared to Demirören’s 39,000+), the Narmanlı Han could hardly serve as a hotel or mall, so the owners have decided in the end to convert the space into a complex accommodating seven high-end shops as well as a café and restaurant.  In reference to the question of how much of the historic fabric would actually be preserved, Genim responded that the outer façade would be conserved, but the interior, “being in a complete state of disrepair," would have to be evaluated and modernized with fire-escapes and a new electric grid: “we are not at liberty to warm the place with charcoal braziers."

Of course, most architects and engineers working in Istanbul find themselves walking the thin line between the demands of conservation and modernization. The main issue is that, when it comes down to economics, it is almost always less costly to demolish and rebuild than to preserve. The fact that the Narmanlı Han itself transitioned from a “renewal” to a “restoration” project in the past few years can largely be attributed to developers responding to an increasingly vocal and organized community of activists who are stepping in where they feel their local government has failed. Those who have joined the effort to save the Narmanlı Han have done so because they believe in protecting the site as a historic and cultural landmark—usually stressing the building’s brief stint as the Russian Embassy in the nineteenth century, or when it became a bohemian enclave in the 1930s, home to the likes of Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu. Yet a more thorough account of the building’s structural history has yet to be done, and this task is perhaps more pressing than ever, if we are to understand what exactly is at stake. 

What follows is an attempt to lay the foundations for a focused architectural history of the site now occupied by the Narmanlı Han. Besides offering some minor corrections to the timeline of the building’s history that keep circulating in recent news articles, it should also be stressed that what we see on the ground today is not a coherent structure that can be labeled with a single date or architect, but rather an amalgamation of different phases of construction and repair. Most importantly, the famous façade of the building was not part of the original structure, and was only added in the early twentieth century as part of the expansion of İstiklal. The Narmanlı Han has had a long and eventful life. In order to acquire the fullest understanding of what is left standing, we have to peel away these phases, layer by layer.

[9] Adapted from “Plan de Constantinople,” 1807,
F. Kauffer and I.B. Lechevalier, Weimar. 
Photo: Historic Cities Center, Hebrew University
 and Jewish National and University Library. 
Most secondary sources claim that the building complex today known as the Narmanlı Han was first constructed to serve as the Russian Embassy sometime after 1831, the year of the great fire that wiped out a good deal of  Pera. But what did the site look like before the great fire? The first permanent Russian diplomatic mission in Istanbul was established by the Treaty of Constantinople in 1700.  Although it is not clear where exactly the Russian ambassador resided throughout the eighteenth century, he no doubt lived in Galata or Pera-Beyoğlu, the neighborhoods where most foreign diplomats kept their official quarters in Ottoman Istanbul. As early as 1794, documents from the Prime Ministry Ottoman Archive confirm that the “saray” of the Russian Embassy was indeed located in Galata.  In a German map printed in 1807, which was in turn adapted from an earlier French map first drawn up in 1786, the Russian embassy (labeled “Russie”) is located precisely where the Narmanlı Han currently stands today.  [Fig. 9] The European map-makers represent the embassy as a collection of four or five buildings all surrounded by an outer enclosure wall, and place the complex at the beginning of İstiklal Caddesi (then known as Cadde-yi Kabir), directly across the street from the embassies of Sweden and Naples. In another Ottoman document dated 1812, only five years after this map, we learn that all of these buildings [“Rus Sefarethanesi”] had burned down and, as a result, the government had found another location in Beyoğlu (Pera) to serve as a temporary residence for the ambassador until the embassy could be rebuilt.  

The threat of fire dominates every urban history of Istanbul before the twentieth century. As most buildings in the city were constructed of wood, fires spread quickly and often destroyed entire quarters, with most people losing their homes more than once in their lifetimes. This almost continuous regeneration of the city fabric, however, did not seem to really impact the layout or demographics of Istanbul, at least not until the mid-nineteenth century, as most people tended to simply rebuild directly on top of the plot that had been ruined. There is no doubt that, after the Russian Embassy had been rebuilt after 1812, it yet again went up in flames, like the rest of Pera, in 1831. The 1831 fire was particularly devastating, destroying the entire quarter in a matter of hours. In his diary, the British general Charles Grey writes that Pera “exhibit[ed] the appearance of a forest of chimneys, which in most cases have been the only stone part of the houses.” 

[10] General View of the Nave, Hagia
Sophia, from a drawing by Gaspare
Fossati, Lithography by Louis Haghe,
 1852. Photo: Library of Congress.
The current structure of the Narmanlı Han seems to have been initially erected sometime shortly after 1831. An Ottoman document that mentions the recent rebuilding of the “Rus Sarayı” in Beyoğlu narrows the date for the construction of the structure to 1833.  The architect for this building remains something of a mystery. Many sources claim that the structure was designed by none other than Gaspare Fossati, the Italian architect most famous for his restoration of Hagia Sophia. [Fig. 10] Yet this attribution remains unlikely, as Fossati only arrived in Istanbul in 1837, four years after the building’s reconstruction.  Another recent claim that the architect of the Narmanlı Han was Gaspare’s younger brother, Giuseppe Fossati, is even more dubious. In 1833, Giuseppe was 11 years old—quite the prodigy indeed! More likely, the main fabric of what we see on the ground today at the Narmanlı Han was constructed under the supervision of a local architect, who more or less replicated what had been there before the 1831 fire—a collection of buildings made of brick, wood and plaster, turned inwards around an open-air courtyard.

[11] Russian Embassy (now consulate) on İstiklal, built 1845, Gaspare Fossati. Photo: Alaexis, Creative Commons License.

The circumstances of the initial construction of the Narmanlı Han in 1833 have most likely been confused for such a long time because the structure only served as the Russian Embassy until 1845, when a new, neo-classical palace (designed, in fact, by Gaspare Fossati) opened just a few blocks north on the Grand Rue de Péra (İstiklal). [Fig. 11] The complex today still houses the Russian diplomatic mission in Istanbul. Thus, only a few years after its construction, the Narmanlı Han was demoted to a consulate, a mere satellite to the imposing new building just down the street. While the Narmanlı Han actually preserved the style of urban construction in Pera before the 1831 fire, the new Russian Embassy stood as the epitome of the emerging trend of foreign missions commissioning large, European-style mansions in Pera. 

Unfortunately, we do not have too many details about the life of the Narmanlı Han in the second half of the nineteenth century. As the Russian consulate general, it continued to serve various functions related to the diplomatic mission in the city, providing space for secretarial offices as well as a tribunal. The 1891 almanac Annuaire Oriental states that the Russian consulate, overseen by a Monsieur Aexis Lagowsky, was open for visa applications from 10:00 am till 3 o'clock in the afternoon [p.78]. It does seem that at some point, probably in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Narmanlı Han also began to operate as a prison, but only accommodated Russian citizens who had committed a crime on Ottoman soil. This seems to have been the case until WWI, as the site was essentially left abandoned when the Russians declared war on the Ottoman Empire in 1914. After the war, the Bolsheviks came to Istanbul, and complained to the Ottoman government that they found all of the Russian properties, including the Narmanlı Han (referred to as “La Maison du Consulat à Péra”), “unduly occupied by people who have no quality.”  Interestingly, the argument that the building be evacuated of undesirable persons so it can be returned to its former glory mirrors the more recent efforts in the last two decades to evict businesses and residents from the Narmanlı Han, ostensibly for its restoration. After the war, the buildings were given back to the new representatives of Soviet Russia. With all of the foreign embassies moving to the new capital in Ankara in the early 1920s, the building continued to serve consular functions and rent out office space until 1933, when it was sold to the Narmanlı brothers. 

[12] View of the Ruins after the Pera Fire. Illustrated
London News,
2 July 1876.
Photo: Collection of Maggie Land Blanck.
Amazingly, the structure of the Narmanlı Han itself seems to have escaped being consumed by fires that continued to plague the city throughout the nineteenth century, notably avoiding the fire of June 1870, when Pera lost more than 5,500 buildings and almost the entire length of the Grande Rue de Péra. [Fig. 12] The Narmanlı Han appears in the D’Ostoya map of Istanbul produced in 1858-1860, about a decade before the great Pera fire, and  the profile of the complex appears almost exactly as it does today—a collection of six buildings encircling an open courtyard.  [Fig. 13] The fact that the buildings survived the 1870 fire, therefore, makes the Narmanlı Han one of the oldest structures currently standing on İstiklal.

[13] Aerial view of the Narmanlı Han in 2012. Photo: Adapted from Google Earth.

[14] Detail of the Goad Insurance Map of Istanbul,
1905. Photo: Paolo Girardelli.

A careful analysis of cadastral maps reveals that the façade of the Narmanlı Han received an extreme makeover in the early twentieth century, most likely the result of a more large-scale expansion of the street towards Tünel. A detail from the famous Goad insurance maps, prepared in 1905, shows the complex as it stood before the Grand Rue de Péra was widened.  [Fig. 14] According to this map (using the scale accompanying the image), the front part of the building facing the main street was approximately 15.3 meters in depth, with the section of the avenue directly in front of the Han being 6 meters wide. 

[15] Detail of German cadastral survey, 1913-1914.
Photo: Alman Mavileri, ed. İrfan Dağdelen (İstanbul:
İstanbul Büyükşehir Başkanlığı, 2006).
Meanwhile, another important map from the period produced about a decade later in 1913-14 indicates that the street has been expanded to 15.4 m, i.e. more than twice the original width, and, as a result, the front part of the Narmanlı Han was at that point only 12.2 m in depth, losing 3 meters of fabric on the side of the complex facing the street--the original façade being presumably destroyed and replaced with what we see on the ground today. [Fig. 15] The partial demolition of the Narmanlı Han, which took place sometime between 1905 and 1914, seems to have been part of a larger project to enlarge this section of İstiklal Caddesi, with the electric tram being introduced around the same time. Unfortunately, we do not have any information about the architect of the new façade, although it is interesting to note that the austere style, characterized by an almost complete lack of ornament and anchored by massy Tuscan columns, looks to the Russian neoclassical revival that took hold in St. Petersburg and Moscow before WWI. [Fig. 16] We could thus speculate that the Russians brought in one of their own when their consulate on İstiklal required an updated design.

[16] Mindovsky House, Nikita Lazarev, 1906, Moscow. Photo: By NVO, Creative Commons License.

[17] The d Group at the opening of their first exhibition
at the Mimoza Hat Shop, 1933. Photo: Adan Çoker
et all, Cemal Tollu (Istanbul: Model, 1996), p. 71.

Most people know the rest of the story. When the businessmen Avni and Sıtkı Narmanlı bought the building in 1933 to house their offices, the art-loving pair also transformed the location into a kind of bohemian enclave for the emerging modernist set, renting out the rest of the space to small publishing houses, writers, and artists. Tanpınar wrote Huzur there. The avant-garde artist collective “d Group” held their first exhbition there. [Fig. 17] In the second half of the twentieth century, the daily Armenian newspaper Jamanak was printed there for almost thirty years. In the late 1980s and 1990s, a new generation discovered the Narmanlı Han, especially gathering around the Deniz Kitabevi, selling used books and vinyl records. This was all more or less shut down around 2000, and nostalgia for the quiet courtyard and the wisteria blossoms has been mounting ever since.

The prevalent discourse on cultural heritage management in Istanbul largely falls between two camps, those who prioritize the preservation of historic fabric to the greatest extent possible, and those who perceive preservation as a real hindrance to progress. The divide between these two approaches distinctly emerges when one parses the language of the slew of documents that accompany development legislation and project proposals. While the term “restoration” [restorasyon] usually signals the conservation of historic fabric as a priority in the project, the term “renewal” [yenileme] tends to describe the complete or partial demolition and replication of a historic structure. Both words promise the protection of cultural heritage, but the results on the ground look very different indeed. In the end, it seems that the Narmanlı Han will be subject to both renewal and restoration, with the early 20th-century façade being cleaned up but essentially left as it stands, while the fate of the earlier nineteenth-century fabric within remains much more precarious. 

Back in 2013, then Prime Minister Erdoğan asked his critics: “You save the pots and pans, why do you not want to protect the historic barracks?" The Prime Minister was expressing confusion about why the construction of the Marmaray and Metro stations in Yenikapı was expected to be held up for years upon years for the sake of recovering archaeological artifacts that kept emerging from the ground, while, for some reason, no one seemed particularly thrilled about the comeback of a historic Ottoman building that had been bulldozed in the 1940s to make way for Gezi Park. The answer to this rhetorical question lies in the difference between “renewal” and “restoration”—a dialectic between replica and relic. Those who advocate for “renewal” maintain rather optimistically that the past is never truly gone, it can always be revived and perhaps even re-engineered better than before. Meanwhile, people in the “restoration” camp believe in the intrinsic power of an object or a building to keep us connected to the lives of earlier generations. This perspective fosters a real sense of urgency when it comes to the preservation of historic fabric, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. 

EMILY NEUMEIER is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History at University of Pennsylvania. Her research concerns the art and architecture of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic. 

**This essay was adapted from an article published in the December 2015 issue of Toplumsal TarihMy thanks especially to Paolo Girardelli and Aslıhan Demirtaş for their help and insight when first developing the ideas for this essay, which has taken more time to write than I would like to admit. I also would like to thank Alexander Balistreri, Zaur Gasimov, Sato Moughalian, Irvin Schick, and Ahmet Akşit for their assistance in preparing the text and images.

Citation: "Fabric of the Past, Questions for the Future: Restoring the Narmanlı Han," Emily Neumeier, Stambouline (February 26, 2016).

Primary Sources:
Prime Ministry Ottoman Archive (Başbakanlık Arşivi), Istanbul
AE.SSLM.III 160/9586 (1208 Dhu'l-Hijja 29/ 1794 July 28)
HAT 965/41285 (1227 Rajab 06/ 1812 July 16)
HAT 1166.4611 (1249 Rebīülâhir/ 1833 August-September)
HR.İM 67/83
HR.İM 113.16 (1924 August 13)

More reading:
AKPINAR, İpek Yada and Korhan Gümüş, “Taksim, Dün-Bugün: İdeolojik bir Okuma,” dosya 28 (Jul. 2012), pp. 41-42. 
BRUMFIELD, William C., “Anti-modernism and the Neoclassical Revival in Russian Architecture, 1906-1916,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 48/4 (Dec. 1989), pp. 371-386.
DINÇER, İclal, Zeynep Enlil and Tolga İslam, “Regeneration in a New Context: A New Act on Renewal and its Implications on the Planning Processes in İstanbul,” Paper presented at Bridging the Divide: Celebrating the City. ACSP – AESOP Fourth Joint Congress (July 6 – 11 2008, Chicago, Illinois). 
GIRARDELLI, Paolo, “Italian Architects in an Ottoman Context: Perspectives and Assessments,” in İstanbul Araştırmaları Yıllığı 1 (2011), pp. 101-122.