Go to Home Page Conservationtech.com, Building Conservation Technology
CUMHURYET (ISTANBUL, TURKEY) Newspaper articles about conference
16 November 2000
Experts form 25 countries are participating in the Conference on “Lessons to be Learned from Traditional Buildings
“Traditions” will beat earthquakes
international conference sponsored
by the Ministry of Culture, UNESCO
and ACOMOS [sic] is taking place
at The Marmara Hotel and it hopes
to establish traditional
buildings, whose construction
techniques enabled them to
withstand earthquakes, as a source
of inspiration in the development
of future construction systems
if the Ministry of Public Works
and Settlement continues to close
its ears, even if Supreme Science
Council thinks of only “steel-frame
concrete buildings” when the
word building is uttered and even
if some members and directors of
the Chamber of Civil Engineers
tell to architects who want to
learn about and develop
traditional building systems along
with concrete buildings “you don’t
know what you are talking about,”
and even if university professors
who teach “steel-frame concrete
buildings” chastise those who
tell them that such buildings are
not the only alternative…people
with common sense acknowledge the
following reality, [they did it]
first on the anniversary of the 17
August 1999 earthquake and [they
do so] now on the anniversary of
the 12 November 1999 earthquake:
of the primary reasons that
transform earthquakes into major
catastrophes is the fact that
concrete buildings, which turn the
slightest technical error in the
construction process into a
serious risk, are very common.
Traditional buildings, which
remained erect during these
earthquakes despite their age and
state of disrepair and saved the
lives of the people who took
refuge in them, established a
clear enough lesson [for these
above mentioned people and
institutions] to change their
While we are still in an unbelievable denial and we refuse to receive this lesson and we race to put into effect one after the other new rules and regulations which acknowledge only steel-frame concrete buildings, close to 100 experts from 25 different countries who decided to benefit from “civilizations historical accumulation,” declared the days between 16 and 18 November 2000, days of “reminding Turkey of realities.”
The international conference on “Earthquake Security” that will take place in Istanbul at The Marmara Hotel is sponsored by ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture. Its main focus is characterized as “lessons to be learned from traditional buildings.”
The main goal of this scientific rendezvous is to develop new construction techniques and models by “making use of history’s gains” and by examining the “experiences” of not only Turkey but other countries as well. This goal is summarized in the invitation brochure in this way: “Earthquake-resistant old buildings and the building traditions they represent are part of the cultural heritage of where they are located. (…) In the last earthquakes, the thesis and beliefs that steel-frame concrete buildings are more resistant to earthquakes than old and wood-frame buildings have been proven wrong. (…) The fact that the widespread building activities which are largely unauthorized and uncontrolled remain hostage to steel-frame concrete is openly criminal. (…) For this reason, both Turkey and humanity at large have a lot to learn from traditional buildings in their effort to develop new earthquake-resistant construction techniques.”
Actually, even before this important conference was planned, Architectural History expert Stephen Tobriner of the University of California in the US, visited the Marmara-Bolu earthquake region and wrote a report after having investigated closely the steel-frame buildings that collapsed and the traditional buildings that remained erect.
Right after the earthquake, the observations and conclusions we expressed both in this newspaper, Cumhuriyet, and in various activities of the Chamber of Architects, led many engineers, who never had the opportunity or possibility to learn anything beyond steel-frame concrete, to brand us almost “enemies of science” for having “questioned steel-frame concrete.” The [Tobriner] report was “largely in agreement” with our observations. Yet, in the generally impoverished Turkish cultural climate, which is devoid of “historical consciousness,” this report did not generate any interest in the public opinion.
The “Tobriner Report,” which is put back on the agenda by the international conference taking place at The Marmara, first explains how much “security” the “experienced” load-bearing systems in traditional buildings provide against earthquakes. It then gives examples from “the building culture that withstood” in the earthquake region, especially places such as, Düzce, Kaynasli, Ulasli, Degirmendere. It finally, discusses the subject of “reviving and strengthening the traditional Turkish houses.”
In the coming days, we will mention Stephen Tobriner’s report here in Cumhuriyet, along with the views and assessments expressed in the conference taking place at The Marmara. In the meantime, we all have the responsibility to pay attention to the upcoming words of these Turkish and foreign experts who are “not conditioned by steel-frame concrete” in their meeting in Istanbul between 16 and 18 November 2000.
One wishes that the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement and its “know-it-all” directors who are unwilling to consider any suggestions, were among the sponsors of the conference… If this were the case, it would not be possible to pass building code for earthquake regions banning wood-frame buildings in a country like Turkey which is the “historical cradle” of wood-frame architecture.
Cumhuriyet, 18 November 2000
International Conference, where
culture has been discussed, is
buildings” did not collapse…
“The International Earthquake Security Conference” which focuses on “lessons to be learned from traditional buildings that are not taken down by earthquakes” is coming to an end today.
The conference, which started on 16 November at The Marmara Hotel in Taksim, Istanbul with the participation of approximately 100 experts from 25 countries, is organized by the ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) World Wood Committee. The conference is also sponsored by ICOMOS Turkey Wood Committee, UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture. Some Turkish companies, such as Yapi Endüstri Merkezi, Tepe Insaat. Some foreign governments, such as Italy, France and Sweden and several foreign corporations are also among its sponsors.
will be evaluated
At the opening of the conference, a message from the Minister of Culture [name illegible] was delivered by Nadir Avci, Director General of Safeguarding Cultural and Natural Assets. He said that “the results” of the evaluations during the three-day conference (attended by Ministry experts) will guide new efforts, which will extend the protection of civil architecture examples beyond a cultural heritage policy and will emphasize their protection for “their contribution to the development of earthquake-resistant architecture.”
The Minister’s message expressed “our wish” that these efforts will “influence” the process of determining technical and legal principles “of the new building code” [that is being developed] by the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement. After the delivery of the message, the conference began to hear the scientific papers.
The first person who spoke “to welcome” the participants was [illegible name], the Director of UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage Section for European, Asian and Pacific Regions. He explained how the idea of moving towards concrete buildings on cost grounds was shown to be incorrect and to be, in fact, “more costly” by the recent earthquakes. [Illegible name] said that this error affected Turkey quite negatively, but his most dramatic point was this: “in the last 50 years, traditional buildings were demolished to be replaced by concrete apartment buildings on the grounds that these latter are more solid. But when these were destroyed by the earthquake what was left were the traditional buildings which have not yet been replaced.”
UNESCO’s Regional Director’s views were “corroborated” by a study which was presented by two participants from Turkey, Demet Gülhan and Inci Özyürük Güney.
Demet Gülhan, who, as a staff member of Iller Bank, participated in the damage assessment efforts conducted by the Ministry of Public Works after the 17 August 1999 earthquake, presented a comparison between steel-frame concrete buildings and traditional buildings in the city of Sakarya. Inci Özyürük Güney provided the same comparison for the city of Gölcük and its suburbs. For instance, in the Cumhuriyet district of Adapazari, while concrete buildings with proper permits collapsed, old wood-frame buildings sustained little damage and remained erect.
Similarly, in Gölcük’s heavily damaged sea-side Kavaklar neighbourhood, while concrete buildings “went down: as it were, traditional buildings saved lives.
in the world
The results that showed that this reality was the same everywhere else in the world constituted the most important “lessons learned” submissions to the conference. This is because the policies that destroyed the traditional heritage in Turkey were based on a “let’s not stay behind” discourse. Yet, elsewhere in the world, while traditional buildings withstood earthquakes, modern buildings became the bearer of catastrophes. For example, the Chair of ICOMOS Wood Committee David [last name illegible] (England) stated that traditional buildings do not collapse in an earthquake because “they were developed by experience” and explained this thesis with examples from Nepal, China, the Philippines and Japan.
Randolph Langenbach [?], a participant from the US, reminded the conference that 90 percent of the buildings in the earthquake regions in the US are supported by wood frames.
The conference that is closing today heard these important papers which are critical for Istanbul where a major earthquake is being predicted and for Turkey which is an earthquake country. The first two days, there were many “empty seats” in the conference hall. We hope that at least today some of these seats will be filled and more people will see and learn from these sensible and sensitive experts who came here from 25 different countries.
Cumhuriyet, 22 November 2000
Lectured on Earthquakes using “History”
It has been proven that traditional buildings are “secure”
experts went back to their
countries after presenting their
papers which contained the
important message that traditional
building systems sustained less
damage in recent earthquakes both
in Turkey and around the world.
three-day international conference
organized by International Council
on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS),
UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture
and entitled “Resistance to
Earthquake of Traditional
Buildings” has ended on 18
November 2000 Saturday with the
participants “thanking” the
should be the one thanking these
approximately 100 experts from 25
countries who emphasized “historical
heritage” regarding “earthquake
is a country whose architectural
and building history goes back “13
thousand years” and this history
has been shared by frequent
earthquakes. Hence, the
representatives of all three
institutions, ICOMOS, UNESCO and
the Ministry of Culture agreed
that Turkey has the “accumulation”
to provide the world with the
lessons learned on
not only Turkey did not offer such
lessons learned [to the world], it
also pushed aside this unique
wealth of knowledge and experience
and chose to be a slave to those
“killer concrete weights.”
© Randolph Langenbach
M-Arch (Harvard), Dipl.Conservation (York, England)
Writings and photographs found on this website is ©Randolph Langenbach and other authors. For use permission, write to the address above.
Please send your reactions, comments or questions regarding this website to the Email address above