Istanbul (1930s-1940s)/ Transformation in the meaning of Historical Monument under Prost Plan

The new public spaces had a political influence in making the national history of the new republic. Prost preserved just the monumental structures from the past, opening and widening their surroundings in a manner that would provide a perspective with the new avenues and squares, isolating them from the original urban fabric.

The following of the blog shows how Prost’s ambition in symbolizing the three eras of Istanbuls history at one place, to express the determination of Republic to break away from the Ottoman influence, in the layouts of the Archaeological park and the Meydant Square.

 1936-1950 . Archaeological Park , Istanbul, urban plan © Fonds Henri Prost

Fig.1 1936-1950 . Archaeological Park , Istanbul, urban plan © Fonds Henri Prost/Académie d’architecture/Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine/Archives d’architecture du XXe siècle
Fig. 1 Map of Istanbul with Major Parks Indicated © 2011, Fonds Henri Prost. Académie d'architecture/Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine/Archives d'architecture du XXe siècle.
Fig. 2 Map of Istanbul with Major Parks Indicated © 2011, Fonds Henri Prost. Académie d’architecture/Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine/Archives d’architecture du XXe siècle.

In Prost 1937 master plan, he proposed to create an archaeology park (Fig.1) on the eastern tip of the historic peninsula (Fig.2), at the site of the Constantine imperial palace. The Archaeology Park extends from the Sultan Ahmet Mosque on the south, to Hagia Sophia on the north and the Byzantine maritime fortifications on the east. The large coverage includes the Ancient Byzantion Acropolis, the Hippodrome and the Constantine Imperial Palace. This park would be an open-air museum open to public.

The removal of the immediate surroundings of the monuments and the conversion of them into museums and the setting of monuments from three eras in a modern park were symbolic politically. It was more than the preservation of monuments. It was expressing the republic’s determination in breaking away from the influence of the previous political powers, by changing the function of its symbols. It also echoed Ataturk’s the idea that the monuments did not belong to one religion or another, but to all humanity.

 

Fig. 3 Meydant square plan. 1942 © Fonds Henri Prost. Académie d'architecture/Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine/Archives d'architecture du XXe siècle

Fig. 3 Meydant square plan. 1942 © Fonds Henri Prost. Académie d’architecture/Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine/Archives d’architecture du XXe siècle

 

The Archaeology Park was not the only example in Prost’s plan. He proposed to rearrange the square at Meydant. The square was in front of the sultan Ahmet mosque, which had been the hippodrome of Byzantine Constantinopolis, into a plaza crowned with a grandiose monument dedicated to the Republic. Hence, the symbols of three eras in the history of Istanbul , i.e. the Byzantine, Ottoman and Republican, were clustered at one place.

In Prost 1937 plan, the historic urban fabric surrounding the historic monuments were eliminated detaching them from their original historical connections. The purpose was to establish the new Republic’s political power instead of preserving the monuments for their historical values.

 

Reference:

Osmond, Jonathan. (2007). Power and Culture: Identity, Ideology, Representation. Pisa: PLUS-Pisa University Press.

L, Murat.(2009). The Emergence of Modern Istanbul Transformation and Modernisation of a City. London: Tauris Academic Studies.

2 Comments on “Istanbul (1930s-1940s)/ Transformation in the meaning of Historical Monument under Prost Plan

  1. It is a little confusing to me that Prost preserved the monuments but showed determination to break away from the history? Preservation to me is more of respecting the history whereas changing the function of the monuments is inevitable as the time passes. A lot of the monuments we see today does not function as the time when it was built. I would like to know more about the actual spatial arrangement or evidence that shows the determination to separate from the previous ruler.

    • Thank you for your comment!

      True, One could argue that Prost’s attitude towards historical heritage in Istanbul was ambiguous. On the one hand he aimed at preserving the monumental structures, on the other hand he completely transformed the historic urban fabric to rationalize traffic circulation for the modern city of the 20th century.

      However, in my opinion, the setting of monuments in modern rationalised squares in Istanbul was an expression that the edifice did not belong to the one particular religion or political power any more, it is belong to the present city instead, especially in the Archaeological Park, where the monuments of different times were put together as a museum. The monuments were no longer celebrating the power which built them, but just representing the culture and knowledge of that time.

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