Turkish conglomerates are racing to add high-end apartment buildings and office towers to Istanbul’s fast-changing skyline, eyeing one of the world’s most profitable real estate markets for quick returns as that other parts of the economy suffer.
But now a rickety wooden scaffolding is destroying the iconic Suleymaniye Mosque. This sparked furor on social media.
The 16th century creations of Ottoman architect Sinan came to define the Ottoman Empire at its height, the Suleymaniye Mosque, built for Sultan Suleiman, which is part of Istanbul’s unmistakable skyline.
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The last row on Istanbul’s skyline has seen opponents of the new building attack botched restoration work and calls for the protection of historic buildings.
“Disrespect, there is no recognition of proportion or limit,” said Esin Koymen, head of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects.
“New buildings are said to betray Istanbul’s skyline, but it’s quite heartbreaking to see the lingering carelessness of an iconic historic complex,” she said.
President Tayyip Erdogan has ambitious plans for Istanbul, which include digging a 45 km (30 mile) canal connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara to ease congestion in the Bosphorus Strait and filling a part of the sea to create a large assembly ground. enough for 800,000 people.
He also hopes to bequeath Turkey a new constitution, replacing the written version after a 1980 military coup and thus creating a powerful executive presidency.
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“We will not make any concessions on preserving Istanbul’s historical and spiritual values,” Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu tweeted.
The Foundation for the Expansion of Knowledge, which owns the building and whose chairman of the board is Erdogan’s son, Bilal, insisted that the construction of a dormitory for students was “not illegal “.
However, the foundation was forced to take a step back after the rising bloc was chastised even by conservative circles.
“We will not be involved in any action that will go against Suleymaniye’s soul,” the foundation’s acting chairman, Nurettin Alan, told reporters in the mosque’s courtyard last week.
“Suleymaniye is our soul, we will protect it.”
Moreover, Alan accused the Istanbul Municipality of “politicizing” the issue by closing the building despite their decision to stop construction, which had reached almost 16 meters.
Mahir Polat, cultural heritage director of Istanbul Municipality, said the building was six meters higher than the approved project.
“Compare photos from 2016 and 2022. Anyone looking at the Bosphorus through the poetic domes of Suleymaniye knows that (this building) wasn’t there,” Polat said.
(With agency contributions)