Turkish cultural conversion plan makes waves

The European City of Culture program has been around since the late Melina Mercouri, the ex-actress who became Greece's minister of culture, proposed the idea.

Since then, cities given the year-long designation to showcase their culture to the world have used it to improve their cultural institutions and benefit from the economic influx of money from tourists and trade groups. This year is Luxembourg's turn.

Istanbul, which has received the 2010 designation, is preparing in numerous ways, but one in particular was revealed today: turning school buildings into hotels or social facilities.

"The Istanbul Directorate of National Education has initiated action to create an inventory of historical buildings in the city. The goal is to make use of the resources in hand. The most important part of the project is to open the historical buildings to the public in the shape of hotels and social facilities under the build-operate-transfer model. An inventory of 154 historical buildings in Istanbul has been made. Half of these buildings are schools," reported the English-language Turkish Daily News.

"The project consists of a few stages. Resource allocation from cultural funds of municipalities for historical artifacts, education of personnel for restoration of buildings, ground survey of buildings are among these stages,” said Ata Özer, director of national education.

A six-person committee formed by his office made the building inventory which now goes to the Ministry of Education for sign-off. The most prominent is that of Istanbul College (seen here).

Directors of some schools housed in historical buildings are uneasy about the latest development.

“A similar project was undertaken four years ago," said Şahin Yılmaz, chairman of Istanbul College's graduates union. "We publicly announced the project with Kabataş and Vefa high schools and it was stopped because of a lack of financial resources. But we are always on the watch. We know the historical significance of our building and preserve it very well. We won't let it be used for any other purpose.”


Istanbul City Guide
History of Istanbul
European City of Culture Program

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