Daily Archives: October 9, 2007

Balat Streets , assimetric view

balat, golden horn, halic, istanbul

unformal perspective is the nature of Balat street.


Surrounded by Byzantine city walls from the 5th century AD to the west, the Golden Horn to the north, Fener and Balat districts are located on the historic peninsula of Istanbul. Once a focal point of the social and cultural lives of Greeks, Armenians and Jews, the Fener and Balat districts are presently inhabited by a mostly Muslim population that immigrated from other cities and rural areas.

Today, Fener and Balat districts look like dilapidated areas and face the danger of total ruin. Some buildings are already in ruins and about 20% of the construction is in poor condition. Out of the 1401 lots on the selected perimeter, there are 102 unoccupied lots (7%), 68 vacant buildings (5.4%) and 124 partially empty ones (9.7%). One of the reasons for this impoverishment is the move of naval industry from the Golden Horn to Tuzla. After then, the social and economic condition of the inhabitants worsened as well as the situation of the buildings. Due to low rents, Fener and Balat districts continue to hold a key position in the adaptation to the urban environment of a population that is poor and lacking the economic resources to carry out the necessary repair and maintenance of the architectural structure.

Many of the residents have no access to proper urban services. Sanitary equipment and health services are cruelly lacking and tuberculosis and hepatitis B are frequent among children. In winter, heavy seasonal rains and poor drainage cause flooding. The population’s standard of education is extremely low; almost a fifth of the women (1998 and 2004 socio-economic surveys) are illiterate and many children drop out of school or attend only intermittently after the age of 12.

Because of the location of the Greek Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church, Fener was dominantly a Greek neighbourhood since the Byzantine period. In the 17th century, Fener became the residence of upper classes and the bourgeoisie with its hewn stone buildings and richly ornamented house facades. During the Ottoman period, an important segment of Greeks who lived in Fener, who were well-educated and fluent in several languages, held high government positions as interpreters or diplomats. During the 18th century, the majority of new constructions were made of stone or wood; and aristocratic Greek families started to build villas around the Patriarchate.

However, the settlement structure changed in the 19th century: Prominent families of Fener left the neighbourhood and moved to villages along the Bosphorus, such as Tarabya, Kurucesme and Arnavutkoy. Only officials, artisans and small traders were left behind and they moved to the unique row houses of the district. They started to build on the plots reclaimed from the fire. Until the 1960s, Fener preserved its identity as a Greek neighbourhood. With the first wave of immigrants to the bourgeois neighbourhoods of Istanbul (the Prince’s Islands, Kadikoy and Sişli) at the end of the 19th century, the population structure started to change radically. After a second wave, when the Greeks left Istanbul in large numbers in the 1960s. The deterioration of the characteristic seashore as a result of industrialization had an impact on Fener as well. Following the 1960s, new inhabitants arriving from the Black Sea region started to settle in the area in large numbers.

This coastal area underwent some very important physical changes in recent decades. A large number of the 18th century stone buildings in Fener and the buildings along the Golden Horn including the Balat Dock were demolished with bulldozers as part of a wide ranging program directed by the Mayor between 1984 and 1987. This project left intact only the city walls on the coast and a few historic buildings outside these walls.

Efforts to transform these areas into parks or other public space could not be achieved. The parks on the seashore are cut from the neighbourhood by a road with heavy traffic and inhabitants still need public or green space.

Balat is known as a Jewish quarter–with a small Armenian population– dating back to the Byzantine period. Balat’s winding streets provided a meeting ground for navigators, seafarers, street vendors and porters. Following the earthquake of 1894 and a series of fires that affected not only the neighbourhood but whole city of Istanbul, the social structure of Balat underwent significant changes: The wealthiest section of the inhabitants left the district and moved to Galata, which is the current location of the Jewish institutions including the Chief Rabbinate and major synagogues. The emigration followed and one fourth of the population of Balat left for Israel after its establishment. After this time, the Jewish population was reduced to a minority in Balat, and a new wave of immigrants arrived from the towns of the Black Sea region, especially from Kastamonu. After the 1960s, the economic situation of Jewish residents of Balat improved and moved to Sişli. The result was the transformation of the urban structure of Balat due to the heavy influx of newcomers, especially a further group of working class people who were attracted by job prospects and the rather low rent.

Urban and Architectural Characteristics of the Districts
Today, Fener and Balat are squeezed between city walls dating from the Byzantine period and hills surrounding the region in the other directions. The districts are not attractive because of the low visibility of the district seen from the transit road and a lack of parking facilities.

Fener and Balat are designed according to a unique road plan where a continuing array of streets intersects one another at perpendicular angles. The urban structure of the district is rather peculiar and can be traced to the division of plots following the fires that damaged the districts. The architectural uniqueness of the districts can be traced from the religious buildings and the facades projecting a harmonious view because of the bow windows.

The height of buildings in the districts varies between one and four storeys Over half of the buildings date to the pre-1930 period and give the district its characteristic atmosphere. Following these buildings in order of importance are those built between 1930 and 1950, which continue this architectural characteristics but at the same time reflect the interesting features of the time period.

for this text , original text ‘s location http://www.fenerbalat.org/content.php?ct=District%20History