Day 95 Ottoman timber housing in Istanbul

Only about 100 years ago Istanbul was still almost entirely a wooden city. Dramatic geopolitical and societal change, new paradigms in town planning and architecture, and the advent of modernity led, in the course of the 20th century, to the disappearance of most of that ancient urban fabric. ‘Reservations’ where wooden houses survive in any quantity can now only be found on the Princes’ Islands and the shores of the Bosporus.

Both shorelines of the Bosporus have for a long time been favourite places for the wealthy to build their summer residences. Timber buildings that served this purpose, known as yalıs, have a distinctive typology (Photo: Sébah&Joaillier, D-DAI-IST-10017)

For over 50 years the DAI has been working on the comprehensive documentation of the extraordinary range of building types and decoration forms displayed by the city’s traditional timber houses. With the aid of maps and aerial photos the extent of wooden housing can be precisely determined as far back as 1913 – meaning that buildings that had vanished by the time of the first DAI documentation can also be recorded. An important tool is the Istanbul GIS that has been developed for the project. Thanks to this, maps can be superimposed, aerial photos georeferenced and data on individual buildings collated.

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