Istanbul court halts construction next to historic Atik Valide Mosque complex after damage report

Istanbul court halts construction next to historic Atik Valide Mosque complex after damage report

Ömer Erbil – ISTANBUL
Istanbul court halts construction next to historic Atik Valide Mosque complex after damage report Construction of a new building planned next to the Atık Valide Mosque complex, one of the two great Istanbul mosque complexes designed by the legendary Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in the 16th century, has been halted by a court on the grounds that the work was damaging the historic building. 

The mosque, built between 1570-79 on the highest hill in the Üsküdar district on Istanbul’s Asian side for Valide Sultan Nurbanu, the wife of Sultan Selim II and the mother of Murat III, came to the public’s attention in 2016 after daily Hürriyet reported that its walls were being damaged due to a student dorm construction planned next to the historic complex.

Following the report, lawyer Onur Cingil objected to the Turkish Cultural Heritage Preservation Board’s 2013 decision that had allowed construction of a student dormitory next to the complex. He filed a lawsuit at Istanbul’s 3rd Administrative Court against the Culture and Tourism Ministry and the Üsküdar Municipality, which had given the construction firm the relevant license. 

Construction of the site was then inspected by Nurcan Yazıcı, an assistant professor of art history; Pelin Gökgür, an assistant professor of architecture; and İjlal Kaya Altay, an assistant professor of urban planning. They released an expert report on July 3 confirming that the construction works were damaging the historic mosque complex. 

“It was determined that the excavations for the dormitory building have been undertaken without determining the basic systems of the Atik Valide Mosque. This impaired the ground balance [of the mosque complex], inflicting damage on the historic structure. In the first and second basement floor plans, the areas reserved for water tanks fell into the place next to the mosque, which could also affect the historic structure. The unity of the registered historic structure was also damaged due to tarnishing of the textural unity of the mosque and the protected area,” the report stated. 

Following the report, Istanbul’s 3rd Administrative Court halted execution of the construction works. 

Cingil, the lawyer who opened the lawsuit, said the dormitory construction was against Turkey’s Law No. 2863.

“By saying that a construction can be undertaken here [just next to the mosque complex], the committees of the Culture Ministry and the municipalities have shown that historical and cultural works, and works of the Ottoman era and by Mimar Sinan, were not important for them. The justification of the claims that we put forward when opening the lawsuit have been determined in a detailed way. This construction is against Law No. 2863. Within these determinations, by winning our lawsuit we have protected an historic artifact and transmitted it to the following generations,” he said.