Restoration of historic Istanbul high school building with heavy equipment stirs debate

Restoration of historic Istanbul high school building with heavy equipment stirs debate

Ömer Erbil – ISTANBUL
Restoration of historic Istanbul high school building with heavy equipment stirs debate

An ongoing restoration at Istanbul’s famous Kabataş High School (“Kabataş Erkek Lisesi” in Turkish) being carried out with heavy construction equipment has stirred debate in Turkey, as experts say the school’s building, listed as a historic one, has “irreversibly” been damaged. 

The famous high school is located at the Feriye Palaces Complex, where the royal relatives of Ottoman sultans had previously accommodated, and is known for having a fascinating view of the Bosphorus Strait.

The premises of the high school is occupied with excavators along with other heavy construction equipment, which the Istanbul Governor’s Office says is there to demolish previously added concrete structures that do not match with and conflict the original historic building’s stone texture.

However, the experts have pointed out that that the school dorm’s frontage, which has been shattered down, was part of the original building texture. They have also said, disagreeing with the governor’s office, the construction works are “irreversibly” damaging the historic building.

The school’s building was granted “historic status” in 1988. The restoration works are thereby undertaken by the permission of the Istanbul 3rd Preservation Board.

Authorities have determined that the building is slowly sliding toward the sea every year and is also weak against potential earthquakes, which necessitated a restoration. On Jan. 25, 2013, the Istanbul 3rd Preservation Board gave the go-ahead for the building to be strengthened, for the later-attached concrete structures to be demolished, and for the demolished parts to be reconstructed in a way matching the texture of the original stone building.

The construction tender for the restoration project was won by the “İş-Yap Turizm” construction company. The project’s architect, Barış Doğan, told daily Hürriyet “the original stone will be protected,” adding: “the later-added concrete structure was determined to be sliding toward the sea.”

But the construction company utilizing heavy equipment and ladders for their works, instead of manual labor, drew the attention of many experts, who pointed out the firm might be damaging the original texture.

The Istanbul Governor’s Office conducted a check on the firm’s construction works, saying in a statement that “the original parts were not harmed.”

“The dormitory has two separate parts. One consists of the original parts, the other are the concrete structures that have been built after 1951. The original parts are not harmed,” the governor’s office said, adding that there was no violation of the regulations set by the Preservation Board regarding the historic building’s restoration.

Founded by Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II in 1908, Kabataş High School has been standing as one of the most successful educational institutions of the country.

The initial name of the school was Kabataş Mekteb-i İdadisi and it had served to raise qualified leaders for the Ottoman Empire for 15 years. After Turkey turned into a Republic in 1923, the institution became a standard high school with its new name: Kabataş Erkek Lisesi.

Owing to the inadequacy of the building used by the school, Kabataş Erkek Lisesi, located in the Kabataş neighborhood, moved to the nearby Feriye Palaces complex in the Ortaköy neighborhood.

Later in the first half of the 20th century, the dormitory and a dining hall were added to the buildings of Kabataş Erkek Lisesi.