Dying Beauties

Once the dominant style of İstanbul’s housing, the traditional wooden buildings are more and more vanishing from the city landscape: Untill the middle of the 20th century wood – due to its cheap supply – was the mainly used material in construction. Devastating fires that haunted the city at the turning of the 20th century lead the government to forbid further construction in wood. Although experts argue that the closeness of the houses and not the material was the cause of the fire’s violence, wooden construction was abandoned. Starting from the 1920s foreign minorities who represented the majority of the craftsmen started to leave Turkey, taking the knowledge of the craft with them. Modernist aspirations of the turkish population that favoured european style housing in concrete furthered this development. A whole architectural type and with it artcrafts that dates back untill the 16th century is slowly erased.

 

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Now it is becoming very rare to see these old houses – most of them in a devastating state standing lonely between a range of faceless row houses at least two floors higher than them. The owners, often poor migrants who moved in after the middle class left the districts in order to live in more fashionable quartiers, can mostly not afford to maintain the houses. However investors simply await their collaps in order to build a whole new apartment – with more floors that generate more profit.

The houses don’t only stand out due to their typicall “cumba” and bay windows but also thanks to their picturesque beauty that remind of the city’s historic past. Strolling through the streets of the districts Süleymaniye, Zeyrek, Ortaköy on the european or Kuzguncuk and Kadıköy on the asian side one can still find some relicts of an old İstanbul that didn’t yet follow the logic of neoliberal urban development.

 

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