How has Safranbolu, which has become the symbol of the Turkish House since 1975, and which has played an important role in demonstrating the necessity for conservation, lived through this process? What were her expectations and to which degree were these realised?

One of the outcomes of the scientific meetings organised on the occasion of the 1975 World Architectural Heritage year was the “Safranbolu Architectural Assets and Folklore Week”, jointly organised by the Institute for Architectural History and Restoration of the Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul Technical University, and the Municipality of Safranbolu.

This Cultural Week was most beneficial both for the visitors and the locals of Safranbolu. The visitors found the opportunity to get acquainted with the architecture of houses in Safranbolu and the rich components of its culture, while the locals experienced the pride of the interest and appreciation provoked by their culture and felt the urge to own it better, so as to be able to conserve it. By the end of the week several articles and photographs appeared in the press and the event promted a country-wide reflection. It was the very first time in Turkey that an attempt to conserve a city was equally shared by academicians, administrators and the city’s own people.
The organisation for the “Week” 1976 was even more effective An exhibition on “Safranbolu Houses” which opened in the winter of the same year attracted great interest. The Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey bought the Asmalar §ehir house, with the aim of adapting it into a guest-house.


On the 8th of October 1976, the High Council for Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Ministry of Culture, approved the decision for conserving Safranbolu. The decision included legal, cultural and historical justifications which read as follows:

The Safranbolu sub province of the Zonguldak province which has for various historical reasons managed to survive to date in its initial form, is worthy of being conserved as an integral whole, with all its monuments, the architecture of its houses, road patterns, and natural characteristics.
Being one of the most interesting settlement areas of North-western Anatolia (Paphlagonia), an interesting region in itself, Safranbolu is one of the important examples of Anatolian cities which has preserved its characteristics up to date, with its monumental buildings dating from the Ottoman period, as well as the very well preserved examples of traditional civil architecture. Therefore it has been decided that Safranbolu should be conserved as a whole, that its old buildings should be consolidated and rehabilitated for contemporary use and that it should be passed on to future generations as a significant product of civilisation; both as a social and economic reflection and physical evidence of the Ottoman period.

It was further noted in the decision that the development plan approved in
1968 would not meet the requirements of conservation and the need for further research, documentation and planning was stressed.

It was suggested that the demand for new development should be met outside the present settlement areas. However, the anxiety that this might lead to an abandoned, lifeless city was expressed. The probability that the historic city would be deserted by its present owners and would get into the ownership of lower income groups was seen as the most important threat to conservation.

It was advised that a Transitional Conservation Plan and Report should be prepared and put into practise, in order to be able to deal with problems that might arise until the new plan was devised and approved.

The decision included some limits and standards which would guide the transitional period. Some of these were: The repair and restoration of all examples of civil architecture built before 1957, alongwith historical buildings of a governmental, religious or military nature and garden walls would be subject to the approval of the High Council for Historical Buildings and Monuments, accompanied with the necessary documentation in the form of photographs and measured drawings.

Streets and their paving materials, natural components of the surrounding such as riversides, rocks, the two major valleys, the pattern and profile of streets both in the Sehir and Baglar regions, the high garden walls and their copings, garden gates were all listed as items that should be subject to careful conservation, and kept as the tangible evidence of the traditional way of life.

Conditions were set for new development areas, giving limits of plot sizes in terms of width and depth, limitation of height, building coefficients, relations with the street etc. It was strictly emphasised that any development in the Baglar region should follow the house-in-garden pattern and that no modification should be made on any of the architectural elements of buildings constructed before 1957.

Other Developments

In spring 1977, an exhibition on “Photographs of Safranbolu” was opened at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Between 1977 and 1978 this exhibition travelled to London, Den Haag, Munich, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

The same year the documentary film “Time in Safranbolu” was released and was very well received both at a national and international level.

The Safranbolu Week was repeated for the third time in the autumn.

In 1978 the studies for the Conservation Development Plan began. The responsibility of these studies was given to the Faculty of Architecture of the Istanbul Technical University. During the same year, for the first time a local branch of the High Council for Historic Buildings and Monuments was established in Safranbolu. This however did not work, as the necessary staff could not be secured. At this stage, more than a hundred projects for repair and consolidation of houses were implemented.

In 1979, a group of experts were invited by the Ministry of Tourism, to prepare a “Conservation and Touristic Development Project for Safranbolu and its Environment.”

The Safranbolu Week was abandoned between 1979-83. During this period the Ministry of Culture expropriated the Kaymakamlar sehir house and restored it as a museum-house and guest house. The Arasta was also expropriated during these years.

In 1981 the “Safranbolu Conservation and Development Plan” prepared by the I.T.U. Faculty of Architecture was submitted for approval to the Ministry of Culture. However, this process was left incomplete, hence the plan could not be put into practice.

In 1981, the book on “Traditional Safranbolu Houses and Their Evolution” was published in Turkish. The decision formerly taken by the Ministry of Culture regarding its being published also in English and French could not be realised at that stage.

The year between 1981 -1984 represented a rather stagnant period as far as conservation studies were concerned.

In 1884 the Safranbolu Week was organised for the forth time.

The fifth organisation of the Week in 1985 was also to commemorate the l0th Anniversary of conservation studies in Safranbolu.

At a meeting on 2nd May 1985, the High Council for Cultural Assets came to the decision that the Conservation Aimed Development Plan proposed by the ITU Faculty of Architecture was of a preparatory nature and that there was need for further study in order to complete the missing details. It was decided that meanwhile the municipality should prepare a Conservation and Development Plan, along the lines advised by the Council. It was agreed that the limits set for the two urban sites and the surrounding natural area in the proposed plan would be valid, and so would be the list of  810 examples of civil architecture and 165 monuments. The validity of the Building Regulations for the Transitional Period, until the ultimate plan was approved, was once more emphasised.

One main reason behind the fact that until the mid 80’s Safranbolu remained relatively unchanged was that the area between Baglar and Karabluk, and the area between Kirankoy and Baglar had sufficed in the meeting the demand induced by population increase which had been accelerated with the presence of the factory in Karabuk. Time had proved that fears about the old settlement would becoming a lifeless museum city had no validity; life went on as peaceful and harmonious as ever, both in the sehir and Baglar areas, while new development was absorbed outside.

However, the differences created by the 1985 decision compared to the 1976 regulations posed some problems in regard to future development. The size of the building plots in the Baglar region were dropped to 800 m2 from 200 m2. The number of listed buildings were decreased and permission was given to demolish certain old structures and open their sites for new development after fully documenting them with photographs and measured drawings. These could cause a hindrance to conservation

In 1988 a welcome decision was made to establish the Foundation for Culture and Tourism in Safranbolu.

In 1989, a hotel with a capacity of 44 beds in addition to the Asmazlar sehir house owned by the Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey and which had been completely restored, provided sufficient accommodation for those interested in the Turkish House. Tours operated by travel agencies were well received and Safranbolu strode steadily towards being an open air museum.

On the other hand, in spite of the decision by the High Council, several inner-city streets were enlarged, their traditional paving was changed into concrete blocks or asphalt and several enlisted houses were partly or totally demolished. Street furniture adopted from the West, such as cast-iron lamp posts, present an alien look.

In 1990 The Conservation and Development Plan for Safranbolu was approved by the Municipal Council.

Between 22nd and 29th June 1990 the Safranbolu Week was organised once again, this time under the title of “Fifteen Years in Conservation: The self-conserving city Safranbolu ” The restoration of the Cinci Han begun with celebrations.

Following the endowment of all the tools and equipment owned by one of the old shoemakers Ahmet Demirezen, a Shoe-Making museum was inaugurated on 28th June, 1990.

On 27th November 1990, the Ankara Council for the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Assets issued a new list of buildings to be conserved. Comprising all those listed before, this added up to a total of 1008, including 124 fountains, bridges and hammams, 36 religious buildings, 9 administrative buildings, 835 houses and shops and 4 archaeological remains.

In 1991 the General Directorate for the Conservation of Cultural and Natural Assets, with the consultancy of the CEKUL Foundation, started the restoration of the Cinci Hamami Square, Hukumet Street, Arasta Arkasl Street and Mescid Street, within the scope of the “Safranbolu Conservation and Consolidation Project”. According to this project the facades, garden walls, doors, roofs and chimneys of  buildings along these streets would be repaired and painted in compliance with their initial state. Some fountains would get a facial uplift and streets would be paved with their original material.

The Old Hospital which was initially given to the Ministry of Culture to be used as a Museum and Library was passed over to the Ministry of Health in 1991, and was adapted into a Health School. Had the museum been opened in Safranbolu, it could have directly received the applications for the restoration of individual houses, whereas now this function is still performed by the museum of Amasra.

In 1992 the Hacettepe University established a Technical High School in Safranbolu, giving a two years course in Restoration, Tourism and Accommodation, which was later passed on to the Karaelmas Univesity founded in Zonguldak in 1993.

The repair of roofs and facades of 15 houses on the Arasta arkasl street was completed in 1992, and a new bid was released for the restoration of 10 houses on Hukumet street.

Between 23-25 October 1992 the Safranbolu Cultural week was organised for the 16th time.

A workshop on Safranbolu was organised by the European Council between 16th-20th November 1992, within the framework of the Technical Co-operation and Consultancy Programme for Safranbolu.

In 1993, the Safranbolu Cultural Week was brought to an international level under the title of “Self-conserving City: Safranbolu”. The repair of  facades and roofs on Hukumet street were completed the same year.

The number of streets which lost their traditional paving to concrete or asphalt reached 96 in 1994. Only about 50 short routed streets in the city managed to preserve their traditional look.

A Working Camp on Vernacular Architecture and Restoration was organised in Safranbolu between 4-14th August 1994, with the participation of teachers and students from the architectural faculties of Y ildiz University, Helsinki Technology University and Tampere Technology University.
In 1994 plaques were placed on buildings which had completed their restoration, certifying them as historical heritage. A proposal for creating a capacity of 160 beds through the adaptive re-use of 18 houses on Mescid street was included in the project.

In December 1994, Safranbolu was included in the World Heritage List issued by UNESCO.
After the intermediary elections in May 1995, Safranbolu was attached to Karabuk, a newly declared province.

In 1995 the results of the studies in which the Yildiz, Helsinki and Tampere Universities took part were published in English in Finland, under the title “Gokcuoglu House: A House in Baglar, The Summer town of Safranbolu, Turkey: Anatomy of a Building”. Ali Riza Baykal published his book on Yoruk village and wedding traditions in Safranbolu.

In February 1996, a monthly magazine titled “Safranbolu: a Museum City” began to be published.

Around 40 houses were restored by their owners in 1996. Twenty five more houses were included in the project for developing house-pensions and the bed capacity reached 150.

Dr. Wolfgang Hausler’ book: “Safranbolu. Leben in einer Turkischen Kleinstad” was published.

The laundry building of Yoruk village was restored.

The Safranbolu Festival was organised between 12th-15th September, 1996.

The 1st National Symposium on Education for Restoration, organised by the Safranbolu High School of Professions, took place between 3th-5th October 1966, in Safranbolu.