Photo: The restoration of Suleymaniye Mosque, 1958 (Ali Saim Ulgen Archive)

Hakan Yildiz



The Semantic Journey of Architectural Conservation in Turkey

The influence of European conservation discourse on Turkey dates back to the nineteenth century and the late Ottoman Empire lying within the scope of the modernisation project of the country. From 1923 and the foundation of TurkishRepublic, to 1950, works of architectural conservation were limited to particular monumental buildings and relied upon the knowledge of individuals and dispersed foundations. Between roughly 1950 and 1980, the institutionalisation of architectural conservation was accelerated through the establishment of many new government offices, laws, and educational institutions. Following that, inline with the internationalisation movement in the conservation field, transnational architectural conservation knowledge was produced and began to become omnipresent all over the world, including Turkey. 

The thesis focuses on the transportation of architectural conservation knowledge from Europe to Turkey from 1950 to 1980. Transportation of knowledge was accomplished by translators who were experts in conservation and had experience in Europe. The thesis argues that the translator is not a neutral transmitter of knowledge who “objectively” transports the semiotics from one language to another but rather an intervening agent who creates, chooses, eliminates, and organises knowledge in such a way as to make it new, transforming the original texts meaning through the process of translation. In this regard, the Turkish and foreign translators, Ali Saim Ulgen, Cevat Erder, Dogan Kuban, AlbertGabriel, Paulo Verzone, etc., not only made the lingual translation of European architectural conservation texts but also adapted the restoration practices into the Turkish context; thus, they constituted a new and unique Turkish conservation paradigm that was based on European knowledge and practices. Aside from writing books, journal articles, reports, translating European texts, they created new academic programmes and contributed to the reforms in laws and state offices from the viewpoint of knowledge production. In practice, they were pioneers of significant restoration projects and conservation campaigns.The thesis treats both the theoretical and practical aspects of the translation process through case studies that refer to milestones in the establishment of this new paradigm. 

The aim of this research is to examine the impacts of transported knowledge on the foundation of the discipline of architectural conservation in Turkey. Apart from that, it is intended to develop understanding as to what extent theTurkish conservation field has differentiated from the global architectural conservation approach, thus giving an opportunity to discuss the positive andnegative aspects of the multiplicity of the field. 


Hakan Yildiz is an architect, lecturer and a PhD candidate at RCA. He has worked on the foundation of an inspirational architecture faculty, nominee of EU Mies Award (2017), at Mardin Artuklu University from 2010 to 2021. Apart from teaching structure design and construction, conservation practices and architecture history courses, he has conducted undergraduate design studios. He has also worked on several restoration projects of local communities and architecture firms as a consultant. He holds a M.S in historic preservation from Yildiz Technical University, Istanbul and a M.A in architectural history from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London.



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Ines Weizman