Monday, December 5, 2011

The Mundane


Istanbul has a most intriguing version of post industrial urban decay. Despite the booming economy and growing affluence amongst some here, there is a real mixture of the old and new. The 'old' is not necessarily 'preserved' and sanitised in the way more ordered European cities might be, it still harbours many Gormenghast-like corners.

In the old city most of the buildings are the usual reinforced concrete apartments that grace most cities in most of the world these days. But there are thankfully a lot of exceptions to this. There are many old wooden Ottoman style houses, their flexible structure enabled them to stand throughout numerous earthquakes, the downside being that destruction by earth quake is probably a lot quicker than slow death by exhorbitant insurance premiums due to their easily catching fire.

Amidst some of these one can find the odd crumbling Byzantine pile and it's an interesting excercise (well for me, maybe not for my kids, or my wife, nor anyone else I know for that matter!) to ferret out the old Byzantine churches that were converted to become mosques in the years after 1453.

So what has all that to do with a fence post? Nothing except my eyes have been awakened recently to form and beauty in the mundane and even in this grand old city there is plenty of that. What is special about this place is that there is 'antique' mundane mixed in with the reinforced concrete. Take a look at this municipal spring, it's too commonplace to restore but was pre-1920s Ottoman chic with beautiful Ottoman Arabic script along the top complete with an anarchy sign that would grace any European urban scene. Such is the smorgasboard of culture that is the modern Turkey.

One last thing.... This doorway stands a stone's throw from the Arab Camiisi (Mosque) on the Galata side of the Golden Horn. The building was apparently built in the eighth century when invading Muslim armies attempted to take Constantinople. The mosque was converted to a church after that by the Venetians and then was once again changed back to a mosque after 1453. It's recently been restored uncovering Byzantine frescoes under the plaster put there by the Ottoman invaders.



1 comment:

K Howell said...

Love that post! Urban decay does provide an intriguing palimpsest. Great photos as well.

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