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Istanbul, Turkey’s Silhouette: UNESCO World Heritage Sta...

Istanbul, Turkey’s Silhouette: UNESCO World Heritage Status Might Go

Istanbul, one of the oldest cities in the world, is often considered to be amongst the most beautiful ones. The city served as a capital for Byzantium, East Roman, and Ottoman Emperors, as well as the most popular for the Turkish Republic. All along, Istanbul’s seven hills, serpentine waterside, dark cypress trees, and vertically slender minarets break

Istanbul, one of the oldest cities in the world, is often considered to be amongst the most beautiful ones. The city served as a capital for Byzantium, East Roman, and Ottoman Emperors, as well as the most popular for the Turkish Republic. All along, Istanbul's seven hills, serpentine waterside, dark cypress trees, and vertically slender minarets break the endless horizon have been topic for many artists.

In his poetry, Sunay Akın depicts Istanbul as a mother, who is swinging her child on the Bosphorus Bridge, and cools the baby's bottle in the cold water of the Bosphorus, depicted as Maiden Tower. This beautiful poem, unquestionably strikes the reader, because the mimesis is enlightened by the symbols of Istanbul; bridges, towers, sea, and more… Another artist, Teoman, who is a recently retired popular pop-rock singer in Turkey, also depicts Istanbul as a woman in his song Autumn in Istanbul; as “she is old and grey, her mascara is leaking down from her eyelashes...” 2006 Nobel Literature Award winner Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk has described the beauty of the view and silhouette of Istanbul in his favorite book “Istanbul: Memories and the City.” He describes the beauty and gloom of the Istanbul silhouette in early 1960’s which he compares to the gravures of French architect and artist Antoine Ignace Melling, dating back to 18th century.

Unfortunately, this poetic and stunning silhouette is threatened by the uprising of new construction. Because of the use of new technologies, companies meaninglessly started building high-rises which simultaneously harm the character of the city. Once the vertical elements were only graceful minarets and the prideful Galata Tower, together with cypresses. But now skyscrapers have taken their place in the landscape and they look bold and rough on the silhouette. One recent example of destruction of the silhouette is the construction of high-rise residence Onaltı Dokuz (16-9), which is located seven kilometers away from the Old City of Istanbul; in the historic peninsula. Four months after the construction started in May 2011, Istanbul citizens on the Asian side realized that the construction can easily be seen behind the famous Sultanahmet Mosque’s minarets. Discussions took place, in the media, on whether the government is paying attention to the historical value of these areas or whether they are using their power to raise the land prices. UNESCO has already warned Turkish Government, in 2003, saying that large-scale projects affect the historical silhouette of the city; therefore, the historical peninsula might be eliminated from the World Heritage List unless Turkey leaps into action to preserve the silhouette of Istanbul.

Sultanhamet skyline ruined

As a result, Istanbul is still an attractive point on the world map, but may easily lose its uniqueness under the gloomy shadows of high-rise buildings. What can be done to preserve the historical and cultural values from this point on?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Nazlı Ödevci is a recent graduate of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden with an M.Sc. in Design for Sustainable Development in Architecture. She holds a B.S. in Architecture from Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey. Currently, ...

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