The restoration of the historic Grand Bazaar in Istanbul's Fatih district is ready to take off, as a five-year-long renovation project in the centuries-old covered market has reached an end.
“We are starting the restoration from the most controversial place, from the roof. The overall restoration will take 10 to 20 years. But the roof will be finished this summer. We will preserve the current structure and the spirit of the Grand Bazaar” Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir told daily Hürriyet on March 4.
Citing the renovation project, which started in 2009 and ended in 2014, Demir said miracles were performed over the five years. “Normally it would take some 30 years for a project of a historical artifact this big to be prepared, evaluated by the rapporteurs, presented to a board and passed by that board. We told about the importance of this project to the Culture Ministry” said Demir, adding that the tender for the renovation of the roof, which will cost 12 million Turkish Liras, will be opened in March.
“Our main objective is to protect the Grand Bazaar from rain, humidity and other external factors. Within the preservation board's approved project, waterspouts will be changed as rain water will be taken underground via the waterspouts... The roof will be a tiled and hipped roof. There will be walking paths [on the roof] called ‘cat paths' but tourists will not be able to go up to the roof... the Istanbul Waterworks Authority [İSKİ] will spend 35 million liras for the infrastructure work. There will be central heating and no air conditioners, TV antennas and toilets. Everything will go under the surface [of the roof]” Demir said.
Saying they first “took an X-ray of the Grand Bazaar and then diagnosed it” Demir added there have been cracks and fractures found on the load-bearing walls, as waste water from cafes and restaurants was directed into the soil instead of being connected to sewers, and that there were even basements in the one-story building.
“There is no need to close down the Grand Bazaar for the restoration. We are going to implement symptomatic treatment... We are going to intervene in the parts we notice during the project,” Demir said adding that the biggest visible problem was the cables and lightning apparatuses. “Everybody did something for themselves. We are changing the illumination system, which uses very big cables. Instead, we are developing a system that would require less energy and fewer cables. The artisans will work and trade just like they used to do for centuries. They will leave their products outside without blocking the way for tourists to walk. We are going to preserve the Grand Bazaar with its spirit” Demir said.
Demir also highlighted one of the biggest problems of the Grand Bazaar was its administration, as it had lots of visitors and users but had no owner. “If a window gets broken, there was no one to collect money and get it fixed. It consists of 2,700 independent parcels and is an autonomous area. It was not possible for them [shop owners] to come together and take a decision. It is 95 percent private property, as foundations, the municipality and the treasury have shares. On Jan. 17, with an election observed by the district election board, an administration of 13 people was formed” said Demir.