Arnavutköy Tarihi Çevre Özellikleri

Nayır, Zeynep
Arnavutköy is a small village on the Bosphorus. Due to its position and fresh-water springs, the site was a favourable spot since Roman times. In the fourth century, Byzantine emperor Constantius I (337-361) ordered the construction of a church dedicated to Archangel Michael. During the reign of Emperor Justinian the Great (527-565) this building was replaced by a new Michaelion, circular in plan and surrounded by a colonnaded courtyard. The village flourished until the attacks of the approaching Ottomans made it risky to live on the Bosphorus. As a result of desertion, the place fell into disrepair and the ruins of the church and the adjoining monastery were used in the construction of the Rumelihisar. After the conquest of Istanbul, people re-settled m the same area. The exact origin of the name Arnavutköy, meaning the Albanian village, is not known, but according to two eighteenth century historians -Incicyan and Sarraf-Hovannesyan- the first settlers were Albanians. However, from late seventeenth century on, Arnavutköy was known as a non-muslim settlement where the majority of the population was Greek. Arnavutköy had to be re-built several times, due to drastic damages of fires. The present street structure of the village was laid out after' the last fires of 1887 and 1908 which destroyed a total of 373 houses in the village. Even after suffering so severely as to be totally reconstructed, no serious precaution was taken against future damages. Timber was the main construction material, because it was easy to construct with and readily available in Istanbul. Being constructed in an era of historicism and Art Nouveau, most of the houses are in the revivalist styles of the nineteenth century. The diversity of forms and surface decoration and the architectural effect presented by sets of jetties, canopies, balconies, pediments and serrated gables is pleasing to behold. The problems related to the conservation of, the timber houses in Arnavutköy are manifold. Firstly, there is the economic pressure; the rises in the land-values roused an urge towards the conversion of small houses or yalxs (water-front houses) into high-rise apartment houses. Thus, most of the houses on Kuruçeşme Caddesi were demolished to give way to new buildings. On the back-streets of. Arnavutköy, however, where it was not possible to catch a good wiew over the Bosphorus, the prices were lower and the incidence of interference was less. Secondly, there is the social change. The original owners of the houses, most of whom were well-to-do Greeks, migrated abroad, leaving their houses behind. Whether sold or rented, the one-family houses were inhabited by several families, each dwelling on one of the floors. In architectural terms, this meant an adaptive re-use of the historic housing stock, an operation which requires thorough investigation. In practice however, no investment was put into the conversion of the houses. Regular maintenance was neglected; only crude repairs of some details took place. Due to lack of modern installations, the houses were generally preferred by low-income groups who could not afford to pay higher rents. Their cultural background did not provide them with an awareness of the architectural importance of the environment they were living in. In 1976, the timber houses in Arnavutköy were taken under statutory protection. Although the recording of structural and constructional details of nineteenth century timber buildings bears crucial significance to art historians and people working in the field of conservation, the High Commission of Historic Buildings and Monuments was contented with 1/50 scale drawings and photographs of Class II buildings. According to Turkish regulations Class II buildings can be totally demolished but have to be reconstructed to the former façade(s). The reproduction of the historic facades., however, are not always faithful copies. The spacing of windows, the forms of the brackets, the colour schemes do not follow the original. What is more, the new building, which is usually a reinforced concrete frame with brick walls, has to be clad with timber, which from an ethical point of view adds more shame to the process. Expressing the urgency for action, in 1976, the High Commission of Historic Buildings and Monuments asked for the preparation of the conservation plan for Arnavutköy historic center. According to the present administrative system, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture to support conservation schemes, financially and professionally. Hopefully, the Ministry of Tourism will also contribute to this end and the timber houses of Arnavutköy will be given a new lease of life which they duly deserve.


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Citation Formats
Z. Nayır, “Arnavutköy Tarihi Çevre Özellikleri,” ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 159–177, 1978, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: