Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı slams conversion of part of Istanbul’s historic city wall into wedding site
ISTANBULRenowned Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı has criticized a controversial plan made by Istanbul’s Fatih district to convert its historic city walls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, into a wedding hall, urging preservation boards to take additional care for the city’s appearance and profile.
“A wedding hall within the historic Topkapı city walls is being discussed. It is clear that the number of boards that are working on this great metropolis [Istanbul] have not been working right and properly for this city. We should take a look at the works of the boards in Rome and the cities in Spain,” he stated in a column on March 5.
Ortaylı also stressed that there were no green spaces left in Istanbul.
“There can be some reasons for this decision, such as creating space for people who want to hold events outdoors to avoid the summer’s heat. Sure, people who have been left with no choice because some people have abolished green spaces and outdoor places in the city, request to have such spaces from the municipality. So, the municipality is left unsure on what to do. But preservation boards of municipalities should look out for city walls and Istanbul’s appearance and profile, not these kind of demands,” he added.
The Fatih Municipality of Istanbul has controversially converted historic city walls, on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites protected list, for the construction of a wedding hall, covering them with a portable roof after receiving permission from the Provincial Board of Cultural Property Protection.
The surveying, restitution and restoration project, encompassing the historic city walls located in Fatih, was presented to the board in 2015.
After evaluating the request, the board granted permission to build a “sufficient portable cover” over the historic city walls, among the oldest structures in the entire city, in May 2016.
The Fatih Municipality’s Directorate of Parks and Recreation in September 2016 installed a three-meter-high portable roof over a site where wedding events are held, called the Topkapı Social Facility.
The municipality has issued a statement on the controversial project, saying the roof has not damaged the historic walls.
“There is no contact between the portable roof and the city walls. The project was implemented in line with the board’s decision,” the statement said.