News Column

Istanbul's Valens Aqueduct to be converted into restaurant

July 7, 2014

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- Turkey'sMinistry of Culture and Tourism and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality have jointly launched a restoration project of the historic Valens Aqueduct in Istanbul which is slated to include a restaurant, terrace and walkways.

Objecting to the restoration plan, the head of the Istanbul Chamber of Urban Planners (SPO), Tayfun Kahraman, told Today's Zaman that this joint project of Turkey'sMinistry of Culture and Tourism and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality would destroy the historic character of the aqueduct.

"If the municipality insists on this project, the Valens Aqueduct, which has already suffered a high degree of neglect, will be completely destroyed. It will start with one restaurant but, I am sure, many more will be opened in time. This will most certainly damage the character of this historic landmark. We request that the Supreme Council of Monuments withhold approval for this so-called restoration project, which would do more harm than good," he said.

The restoration of ancient artifacts must be approved by the Turkish Supreme Council of Monuments due to their historical importance.

According to Kahraman, building a terrace and restaurant on the aqueduct would amount to the sacrifice of a masterpiece for the sake of attracting tourists. "There are many different places that can be used as a terrace overlooking the city. Why do they insist on sacrificing this masterpiece for a meaningless restaurant? This is unacceptable," Kahraman stated.

The Valens Aqueduct already serves as a terrace for visitors. It is possible to climb to the top via wooden stairs by paying only TL 1 to the swindlers in the vicinity.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, a tourist who climbed on the aqueduct emphasized the danger, saying, "Although it is really difficult and dangerous to go up to the top with the wooden stairs, the view is worth it."

The Valens Aqueduct is located in the Fatih district in Istanbul and spans the valley between the hills which are today occupied by Istanbul University and the Fatih Mosque. The aqueduct was built in the late Roman or early Byzantine era. Although it is uncertain as to when construction began on it, according to many sources it was completed during the reign of Emperor Valens, whose name it bears.

The Valens Aqueduct had a length exceeding 1,000 meters during the early Byzantine period, but at the present time it has an average length of 971 meters and a maximum height of about 28 meters.

A major part of the Valens Aqueduct has been destroyed; only the part located on AtatÜrk Boulevard survives today. In 1988 the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality decided to restore this piece of history, which also bears witness to Ottoman design. The Valens Aqueduct was also partially restored in 1990 and 1993. As the oldest aqueduct in Istanbul, Valens has served the city for more than 15 centuries as its most important water source.

Also known as the Bozdogan Aqueduct, this monument to Roman engineering prowess brought drinking water from AlibeykÖy into the city of Istanbul for years.

Although Turkey has significantly raised its standard of restoration work, historians and urban planners still find implementations on some historic buildings unsatisfactory on the grounds that the wrong materials have been used or the original form altered.

Professor Ahmet Vefa Çobanoglu told Today's Zaman that some mistakes were made during the restoration of the GÖk Medrese in Sivas when restoration officials used cement instead of stabilized lime. He further stated that the collapse of the newly restored section of HÜsrev Pasa Mosque in Van, after the province was hit by several earthquakes in 2013, is a prime example of a terrible restoration.

"Sometimes I hear that the prime minister wants the restoration of a certain building to be completed as soon as possible. Everybody wants that; but when you restore a building quickly it is impossible to avoid making mistakes. It takes time to produce great work," he said.

Sevde Nur TunÇ (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CIHAN

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Source: Cihan News Agency (Turkey)

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