Turkey’s 300-year-old ‘eco-mansions’

It was fascinating to see how the people of Safranbolu had incorporated good neighbourhood policies into building their houses. On one street, the rear facades of all Safranbolu konaklar were built into the hill slopes so that nobody’s house could obstruct anyone else’s sunlight, breeze or view. It was common for houses in narrow, tightly packed streets to have their corners smoothened so that animals and carts could easily pass through.

Özen told me that it was an important part of their culture to respect the needs of others who inhabited the same locality. That’s why they ended up constructing their houses in harmony with the entire neighbourhood and not just as standalone structures. “Building my own house like that made me a little less selfish and a little more human,” Özen said.

Özen, who has always lived in a traditional Turkish house, is proud of her heritage. “Living in a konak gives me the warmth of community and makes me feel closer to nature,” she said. “I want to share some of that warmth with my guests and help them experience the care and love that I have experienced here. By restoring Çamlıca Konağı, I not only intend to save our heritage, but also teach the future generation the importance of being kind to nature and other human beings.”

Heritage Architecture is a BBC Travel series that explores the world’s most interesting and unusual buildings that define a place through aesthetic beauty and inventive ways of adapting to local environments.


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