Istanbul(1936-1951)/Henri Prost’s approach in the conservation of monuments
Heritage preservation is always a controversial topic in urban development project. In some of the urban planners’ eye, it is necessary to destroy the old in order to build the new. Many of the old monuments are disappearing now with the newly developed projects. However, when we look at Henri Prost’s( master planner of Istanbul from 1924) approach in urbanizing Istanbul, he did have a successful approach in building the new but at the same time keeping the old.
When Ataturk form the New Republic of Turkey, his policy approach was to discard the Ottoman heritage and tradition and set up new series of reforms. Therefore old capital at Istanbul was moved to Ankara, leaving the Ottoman heritage behind at Istanbul. But when Henri Prost issued his idea of conservation of the monuments and picturesque quality of Istanbul, it was supported by many of the people.
Henri Prost has introduced a series of planning decision and regulations to preserve the Istanbul historical monuments and city’s unique silhouette. He first identified the monuments from Ottoman and Byzantine period. He then designed open areas around these monuments, and design arteries system to create an open perspective axe towards the monuments. Examples such as in the preservation of Süleymaniye Mosque, where roads and public squares were built nearby to open a new perspective towards the building.
Henri Prost design the master plan of Istanbul base on three fundamental issues, namely Transportation, Hygiene and aesthetic. Here Prost try his best to create urban aesthetic by preserving the city’s silhouette. He did this by limiting the height of the buildings not higher than 40meters, so that the picturesque quality of Istanbul can still be preserved.
In conclusion, Henri Prost did successfully transform the historic fabric of Istanbul with good traffic circulation, but at the same time he can preserve the unique historical monuments in Istanbul. I believe nowadays when facing heritage preservation issues, modern urban planners can still take reference to Henri Prost’s approach in order to find a balance between old and new.
BILSEL ,C.(2010), “Les Transformations d’Istanbul”: Henri Prost’s planning of Istanbul (1936-1951), Ankara: Middle East Technical University Development of Architecture (ITU vol. 8, No. 1)