How has Safranbolu, which has become the symbol of the Turkish House since
1975, and which has played an important role in demonstrating the necessity for
conservation, lived through this process? What were her expectations and to
which degree were these realised?
One of the outcomes of the scientific meetings organised on the occasion of
the 1975 World Architectural Heritage year was the "Safranbolu
Architectural Assets and Folklore Week", jointly organised by the Institute
for Architectural History and Restoration of the Faculty of Architecture,
Istanbul Technical University, and the Municipality of Safranbolu.
This Cultural Week was most beneficial both for the visitors and the locals
of Safranbolu. The visitors found the opportunity to get acquainted with the
architecture of houses in Safranbolu and the rich components of its culture,
while the locals experienced the pride of the interest and appreciation provoked
by their culture and felt the urge to own it better, so as to be able to
conserve it. By the end of the week several articles and photographs appeared in
the press and the event promted a country-wide reflection. It was the very first
time in Turkey that an attempt to conserve a city was equally shared by
academicians, administrators and the city's own people.
The organisation for the "Week" 1976 was even more effective An
exhibition on "Safranbolu Houses" which opened in the winter of the
same year attracted great interest. The Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey
bought the Asmalar §ehir house, with the aim of adapting it into a guest-house.
DECISIONS FOR CONSERVATION
On the 8th of October 1976, the High Council for Historic Buildings and
Monuments of the Ministry of Culture, approved the decision for conserving
Safranbolu. The decision included legal, cultural and historical justifications
which read as follows:
The Safranbolu sub province of the Zonguldak province which has for various
historical reasons managed to survive to date in its initial form, is worthy of
being conserved as an integral whole, with all its monuments, the architecture
of its houses, road patterns, and natural characteristics.
Being one of the most interesting settlement areas of North-western Anatolia
(Paphlagonia), an interesting region in itself, Safranbolu is one of the
important examples of Anatolian cities which has preserved its characteristics
up to date, with its monumental buildings dating from the Ottoman period, as
well as the very well preserved examples of traditional civil architecture.
Therefore it has been decided that Safranbolu should be conserved as a whole,
that its old buildings should be consolidated and rehabilitated for contemporary
use and that it should be passed on to future generations as a significant
product of civilisation; both as a social and economic reflection and physical
evidence of the Ottoman period.
It was further noted in the decision that the development plan approved in
1968 would not meet the requirements of conservation and the need for further
research, documentation and planning was stressed.
It was suggested that the demand for new development should be met outside
the present settlement areas. However, the anxiety that this might lead to an
abandoned, lifeless city was expressed. The probability that the historic city
would be deserted by its present owners and would get into the ownership of
lower income groups was seen as the most important threat to conservation.
It was advised that a Transitional Conservation Plan and Report should be
prepared and put into practise, in order to be able to deal with problems that
might arise until the new plan was devised and approved.
The decision included some limits and standards which would guide the
transitional period. Some of these were: The repair and restoration of all
examples of civil architecture built before 1957, alongwith historical buildings
of a governmental, religious or military nature and garden walls would be
subject to the approval of the High Council for Historical Buildings and
Monuments, accompanied with the necessary documentation in the form of
photographs and measured drawings.
Streets and their paving materials, natural components of the surrounding
such as riversides, rocks, the two major valleys, the pattern and profile of
streets both in the Sehir and Baglar regions, the high garden walls and their
copings, garden gates were all listed as items that should be subject to careful
conservation, and kept as the tangible evidence of the traditional way of life.
Conditions were set for new development areas, giving limits of plot sizes in
terms of width and depth, limitation of height, building coefficients, relations
with the street etc. It was strictly emphasised that any development in the
Baglar region should follow the house-in-garden pattern and that no modification
should be made on any of the architectural elements of buildings constructed
In spring 1977, an exhibition on "Photographs of Safranbolu" was
opened at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Between 1977 and 1978 this
exhibition travelled to London, Den Haag, Munich, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
The same year the documentary film "Time in Safranbolu" was
released and was very well received both at a national and international level.
The Safranbolu Week was repeated for the third time in the autumn.
In 1978 the studies for the Conservation Development Plan began. The
responsibility of these studies was given to the Faculty of Architecture of the
Istanbul Technical University. During the same year, for the first time a local
branch of the High Council for Historic Buildings and Monuments was established
in Safranbolu. This however did not work, as the necessary staff could not be
secured. At this stage, more than a hundred projects for repair and
consolidation of houses were implemented.
In 1979, a group of experts were invited by the Ministry of Tourism, to
prepare a "Conservation and Touristic Development Project for Safranbolu
and its Environment."
The Safranbolu Week was abandoned between 1979-83. During this period the
Ministry of Culture expropriated the Kaymakamlar sehir house and restored it as
a museum-house and guest house. The Arasta was also expropriated during these
In 1981 the "Safranbolu Conservation and Development Plan" prepared
by the I.T.U. Faculty of Architecture was submitted for approval to the Ministry
of Culture. However, this process was left incomplete, hence the plan could not
be put into practice.
In 1981, the book on "Traditional Safranbolu Houses and Their
Evolution" was published in Turkish. The decision formerly taken by the
Ministry of Culture regarding its being published also in English and French
could not be realised at that stage.
The year between 1981 -1984 represented a rather stagnant period as far as
conservation studies were concerned.
In 1884 the Safranbolu Week was organised for the forth time.
The fifth organisation of the Week in 1985 was also to commemorate the l0th
Anniversary of conservation studies in Safranbolu.
At a meeting on 2nd May 1985, the High Council for Cultural Assets came to
the decision that the Conservation Aimed Development Plan proposed by the ITU
Faculty of Architecture was of a preparatory nature and that there was need for
further study in order to complete the missing details. It was decided that
meanwhile the municipality should prepare a Conservation and Development Plan,
along the lines advised by the Council. It was agreed that the limits set for
the two urban sites and the surrounding natural area in the proposed plan would
be valid, and so would be the list of 810 examples of civil architecture and 165
monuments. The validity of the Building Regulations for the Transitional Period,
until the ultimate plan was approved, was once more emphasised.
One main reason behind the fact that until the mid 80's Safranbolu remained
relatively unchanged was that the area between Baglar and Karabluk, and the area
between Kirankoy and Baglar had sufficed in the meeting the demand induced by
population increase which had been accelerated with the presence of the factory
in Karabuk. Time had proved that fears about the old settlement would becoming
a lifeless museum city had no validity; life went on as peaceful and harmonious
as ever, both in the sehir and Baglar areas, while new development was absorbed
However, the differences created by the 1985 decision compared to the 1976
regulations posed some problems in regard to future development. The size of the
building plots in the Baglar region were dropped to 800 m2 from 200 m2. The
number of listed buildings were decreased and permission was given to demolish
certain old structures and open their sites for new development after fully
documenting them with photographs and measured drawings. These could cause a
hindrance to conservation
In 1988 a welcome decision was made to establish the Foundation for Culture
and Tourism in Safranbolu.
In 1989, a hotel with a capacity of 44 beds in addition to the Asmazlar sehir
house owned by the Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey and which had been
completely restored, provided sufficient accommodation for those interested in
the Turkish House. Tours operated by travel agencies were well received and
Safranbolu strode steadily towards being an open air museum.
On the other hand, in spite of the decision by the High Council, several
inner-city streets were enlarged, their traditional paving was changed into
concrete blocks or asphalt and several enlisted houses were partly or totally
demolished. Street furniture adopted from the West, such as cast-iron lamp
posts, present an alien look.
In 1990 The Conservation and Development Plan for Safranbolu was approved
by the Municipal Council.
Between 22nd and 29th June 1990 the Safranbolu Week was organised once again,
this time under the title of "Fifteen Years in Conservation: The self-conserving city Safranbolu " The restoration of the Cinci Han begun with
Following the endowment of all the tools and equipment owned by one of the
old shoemakers Ahmet Demirezen, a Shoe-Making museum was inaugurated on 28th
On 27th November 1990, the Ankara Council for the Conservation of Cultural
and Natural Assets issued a new list of buildings to be conserved. Comprising
all those listed before, this added up to a total of 1008, including 124
fountains, bridges and hammams, 36 religious buildings, 9 administrative
buildings, 835 houses and shops and 4 archaeological remains.
In 1991 the General Directorate for the Conservation of Cultural and Natural
Assets, with the consultancy of the CEKUL Foundation, started the
restoration of the Cinci Hamami Square, Hukumet Street, Arasta Arkasl Street and
Mescid Street, within the scope of the "Safranbolu Conservation and
Consolidation Project". According to this project the facades, garden
walls, doors, roofs and chimneys of buildings along these streets would be
repaired and painted in compliance with their initial state. Some fountains
would get a facial uplift and streets would be paved with their original
The Old Hospital which was initially given to the Ministry of Culture to be
used as a Museum and Library was passed over to the Ministry of Health in 1991,
and was adapted into a Health School. Had the museum been opened in Safranbolu,
it could have directly received the applications for the restoration of
individual houses, whereas now this function is still performed by the museum of
In 1992 the Hacettepe University established a Technical High School in
Safranbolu, giving a two years course in Restoration, Tourism and Accommodation,
which was later passed on to the Karaelmas Univesity founded in Zonguldak in
The repair of roofs and facades of 15 houses on the Arasta arkasl street was
completed in 1992, and a new bid was released for the restoration of 10 houses
on Hukumet street.
Between 23-25 October 1992 the Safranbolu Cultural week was organised for the
A workshop on Safranbolu was organised by the European Council between
16th-20th November 1992, within the framework of the Technical Co-operation and
Consultancy Programme for Safranbolu.
In 1993, the Safranbolu Cultural Week was brought to an international level
under the title of "Self-conserving City: Safranbolu". The repair of
facades and roofs on Hukumet street were completed the same year.
The number of streets which lost their traditional paving to concrete or
asphalt reached 96 in 1994. Only about 50 short routed streets in the city
managed to preserve their traditional look.
A Working Camp on Vernacular Architecture and Restoration was organised in
Safranbolu between 4-14th August 1994, with the participation of teachers
and students from the architectural faculties of Y ildiz University, Helsinki
Technology University and Tampere Technology University.
In 1994 plaques were placed on buildings which had completed their restoration,
certifying them as historical heritage. A proposal for creating a capacity of
160 beds through the adaptive re-use of 18 houses on Mescid street was included
in the project.
In December 1994, Safranbolu was included in the World Heritage List issued
After the intermediary elections in May 1995, Safranbolu was attached to
Karabuk, a newly declared province.
In 1995 the results of the studies in which the Yildiz, Helsinki and Tampere
Universities took part were published in English in Finland, under the title
"Gokcuoglu House: A House in Baglar, The Summer town of Safranbolu, Turkey:
Anatomy of a Building". Ali Riza Baykal published his book on Yoruk
village and wedding traditions in Safranbolu.
In February 1996, a monthly magazine titled "Safranbolu: a Museum
City" began to be published.
Around 40 houses were restored by their owners in 1996. Twenty five more
houses were included in the project for developing house-pensions and the bed
capacity reached 150.
Dr. Wolfgang Hausler' book: "Safranbolu. Leben in einer Turkischen
Kleinstad" was published.
The laundry building of Yoruk village was restored.
The Safranbolu Festival was organised between 12th-15th September,
The 1st National Symposium on Education for Restoration, organised by the
Safranbolu High School of Professions, took place between 3th-5th
October 1966, in Safranbolu.