Restoration of possible presidential residence in Istanbul questioned by famous historian
ISTANBULThe restoration of a historical mansion in Istanbul, a possible residence for President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been strongly criticized by İlber Ortaylı, a Turkish historian of the Ottoman era.
Works in the mansion of the last Ottoman Sultan Vahideddin (also known as Mehmed VI) were launched two months ago, amid controversy over the possible destruction of nearby buildings.
Ortaylı said that although he supported the use of historical buildings, he found the Vahdettin Mansion’s current restoration incompatible with the historical reality and architectural rules of its epoch.
“Ask the heirs of the property, or architectural historians – no one is in agreement with the restoration that has been conducted,” he said, while adding that historians like him could by no means suggest how to plan a restoration for the use of government officials.
“What’s being done is not my responsibility. I cannot interfere in any way with what the government should use and how it should do it. First of all, there is a security dimension; we cannot know how the home of a government leader living in a big city should be organized. But I do not agree with what the building has become. I hope there will be more care for other buildings,” Ortaylı said.
The mansion, located in the quiet Asian Istanbul neighborhood of Çengelköy and facing the Bosphorus, is not for from Erdoğan’s personal home in the city.
Ortaylı, who was the head of the Topkapı Palace Museum for several years, argued that using historical buildings was a good means of protecting them, if the structures were maintained correctly.
“Some embassies here, for example the Italian and British summer embassies, have collapsed because they weren’t being used. Keeping historical buildings unharmed requires constant attention and renovation,” he said.
Ortaylı also expressed hope that the Tarabya Mansion, President Abdullah Gül’s Istanbul office throughout his seven-year tenure, will remain in use now that Gül has left office.
This is the historical mansion in Çengelköy before the restoration works began: