A myriad of methods are being devised that not only conserve, but also breathe new life into old historical buildings that have gradually lost their sense of function and exceeded their use, in order to prevent them from fading entirely into the sands of time. Adaptively reusing or repurposing a building is one such a method to have international popularity. Giving them a new lease on life not only restores their presence in the fabric of urban life, it also allows them to live on for generations to come in a much healthier fashion. One might define cities as permanently inhabited places where societal and economic activities are in a continual state of ebb and flow. Likewise, the various functions that exist within cities, too, either are constant fixtures that supersede time, or that break down with, or change over time. The factors behind this at the same time are what prepare cities for development and chance. The first producer-consumer societies emerged as people transitioned there way into a sedentary lifestyle, upon which the first settlements, followed by agricultural activity, appeared shortly thereafter. Agriculture heightened needs, and diversified habitation. This in turn created the need for storage, thus leading to new types of spaces that met that need to emerge. The first seeds of trade were now sewn upon the conceptual dawn of the producer and the consumer and it would not take long for it to gain momentum either. Born out of production, trade had jumped through its first hoops, only to fan off into different directions and open the floodgates for settlements to interact and engage in commercial trade with one another. Given that interactions more often than not took place over long distances, there came the need to erect various types of commercial buildings, be it lodging along trading routes, or structures that guarded settlements from potential external dangers.
Anatolia and Mesopotamia, our own home, have hosted many a critically important civilization since virtually the dawn of time itself, right into the modern era. This is a rich piece of geography. Beneath our feet is one of the world’s oldest commercial hubs, through which many a key trade route has passed, and atop which many a historic urban texture has taken root. Hans, caravanserais, ribats, arastas, and bedestens have come and gone on this soil, built for any number of reasons, and used uninterruptedly with many even surviving into the present day. Such venues exhibited tremendous variety and served multiple functions depending both on the socio-economic as well as cultural structure of the societies who utilized them.
Moreover, they changed with the times over successive generations, both physically and functionally, in sync with the needs of the given era, and in turn allowing many maintain their existence well into modern times. Adaptively reusing such buildings -many of which have, over time, either become white elephants or are on the verge of disappearing altogether- can, in fact, ensure their preservation. Two other outcomes of this are that it feeds local and regional tourism (and hence the economy), and it also fosters the blossoming of wellequipped urban settlements that are open to development. Many such a transformation project involving historic and traditional buildings is taking place across Turkey, and with tourism in mind. Furthermore, projects of this nature also carry with them the added benefits of not only having tourists -local and foreign alike- travel within their walls, but also educating them about the historical, cultural, sociological, and ethnographic contexts that comprise much of that journey.
The Concept of Adaptively Reuse
It is possible to preserve a monument’s architectural status so long as its function is in someway maintained; if not, it becomes an archaeological relic. You can only ensure a building’s functional sustainability by renewing its function. This act of giving buildings or monuments -that within the context of the ever-changing needs of ever evolving societies have more or less lost their original functiona new function that is different from their intended one is referred to as “adaptive reuse” (Eraybat, 2011). Often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the Word “adaptive reuse” are buildings that are of historic value. They are living heirlooms that pass on the knowledge, values, and culture of the period during which they were built onto future generations. The fact that they carry echoes from the past to us makes them well worth conserving. They go beyond being a set of walls between which people live; rather, they manifest traditions, culture, customs, public consciousness, and experience (Asiliskender, 2005). Adaptively reusing a building of historic value -provided that the new function assigned to it is also the most suitable and fruitfulcan yield nothing less than positive outcomes. Thus, it is important to re-orient the building such away that -from the angles of both sustainability and conservation- it serves more than one function, and that those functions are prospective, so as to avoid as many potential issues as possible down the road. Concurrently, adaptive reuse also ensures that the conservation process considers the building’s previous status, the urban and socio-culture structures amid which the building is set, and the target users therefore guaranteeing a much more robust outcome.
Traditional Commercial Buildings Found in Anatolia
The word ribat comes from the Arabic trilateral root r-b-t, which has meanings as varied as: to secure a tie, to heal, ordinance, relationship, orientation, gradation, regulation, (to) control, to be courageous, and to stand vigil at a place of prominence (Sönmez, 2007). Of Central Asian origin, ribats in the Turkic sense of the word mean “establishments.” They are the predecessors to caravanserais, and like them, served multiple functions. In this sense, they could be thought of as the father of caravanserais and hans. Both during and prior to the period of the Abbasid Caliphate, ribats were used as military buildings, and were generally erected along border zones 30 – 40 km (i.e. one journey day) apart from one another. Soldiers on expeditions could use them as pit stops or temporary accommodation when the need arose. Also the predecessors of the han, ribats generally shared a similar layout to caravanserais, complete with a rectangular courtyard enclosed by iwans and porticoes. Form-wise, they would have resembled castles because they not only had high walls, but also towers perched on each corner. They would have been made from adobe and brick. Over time, as war ceased and borders expanded, because they now ended up falling within those borders, they eventually were given new functions as caravanserais, dervish lodges (i.e tekkes), and madrasahs.
The word caravansary derives from two Persian words, “kârban”, meaning caravan, and “saray”, meaning palace. Caravanserais were a kind of charitable organization generally erected between cities, and that served as resting places or lodging for caravans and travellers (Günel, 2010). Back in the days of yore, caravanserais were popular; they were the “grand daddies”, so to speak, of the historic commercial building world, and they played a key role in driving urbanization on Anatolian soil. Over time, they would have been comprised of “hans”. Caravanserais would have built to accommodate the needs of caravans travelling between cities, largely along major active trading routes. Generally speaking, the distance between any two caravanserais was about 40 km, or a nine-hour walk by camel. Structurally, thy would have had high walls and would have been used as fortresses during times of war, and -like hans- bazaars during times of peace. These historic structures would have peppered eastern, central, and south-western Anatolia. Some are even still in use today, albeit serving different functions. While they can or would have varied in size, most shared a common floor plan with slight variations. The fact they were built primarily to serve caravans is evident in how they were laid out. They would have been divided into stalls or sections for storing horses, camels, chariots, heavy loads, and commercial goods. Similarly, there also would have been separate rooms, lounges, hammams (baths), and masjids (mini mosques or prayer rooms) for travellers to rest and relax. Seljuk caravanserais fell into four categories: those with open courtyards, those with covered courtyards, those with both an open courtyard and an enclosed section, and those with a concentric layout (Akozan, 1963).
The word “han” means house or home in Persian/Farsi. Hans were built in the Ottoman period during the 15th and 16th centuries, and came in two types. The first of which were defense posts, of sorts. Generally speaking, they were built beyond city borders at important points along roads in order to protect trade routes and caravans. Over time, they gradually became patrol points or police stations, thus leading them to be grouped under the category of defense architecture. The second type of han existed within city borders. In fact, they generally built at the centre of the city and functioned as commercial spaces. The trade groups they came to represent moreover gradually developed and expanded the han’s generic layout in line with their ever growing needs. In addition to functioning as lodging, they also contained units designated for physicians, veterinarians, blacksmiths, masjids, and hammams or baths, among other things–thereby (with very addition) transforming them into multipurpose buildings. Hans came in multiple floor plans, were built using local materials and local building techniques, and -depending to the needs of their location- could either have open courtyards, covered courtyards, and more than one storey with more than one layout.
Hışvahan’s History & Adaptive Reuse
Hışvahan was built between 1563 and 1577, back when Lala Mustafa Pasha was the governor first of Aleppo and then of Damascus. Built with the intention of transforming Gaziantep into a commercial hub, it therefore is the city’s oldest han. Hışvahan is a single storey han. Its name derives from the word “hışva”, a local colloquialism meaning a boll or fully bloomed cotton blossom. According to one legend, the han apparently was named after cotton traders who -upon arriving in Gaziantep via the Silk Road- would visit the han, twill their cotton there, and then sell it. Hışvahan is situated along “The Culture Road,” a route surrounding Gaziantep Castle shared by other commercial buildings. The han’s West wing originally contained a hammam and a susamhane or sesame vendor, while its East wing housed a bedesten or bazaar (which no longer exists), the Mir-i Miran Masjid, and the Lala Mustafa Pasha Kulliyye. Positioned on the han’s northern façade is a massive front gate -its one and only entrance- leading from the historic castle. Originally, this section would have contained 6 shops; an additional 4 shops said to have been added later. The rooms opening into Hışvahan’s inner courtyard believed to have been used as lodging for travellers. Likewise, the spaces opening into the han’s porticos are thought to have functioned as depots and stables. Architecturally speaking, in hans with two storeys, the top floor was usually used by people whereas the ground floor would have stored animals. As Hışvahan is a single storey han, it instead employs a sunken floor system -i.e. people would have stayed on the primary ground floor, where as camels and other large animals would have been kept in spaces located on a sunken floor a little further inwards. Hışvahan was built from smoothly cut black and white blocks of stone. Its roof, likewise, employs a system of stone pndentives and squinches (aka. domes). Hışvahan maintains a very plain design – save the intricate front gate, which, too, has a black and White stone frame right from the ground up. The Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality recently restored Hışvahan and re-opened it as a hotel, restaurant, and shop in August of 2016.
Modern Day Hışvahan
There was a time when Hışvahan had lost its original lustre at the hands of private owners – to the point that it stood empty for many years and fell into a state of neglect. This “Culture Road” attraction was eventually purchased and restored by the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality. In 2014, it won the Historical and Cultural Heritage Conservation Projects and Applications Incentive Contest’s 15th Year Special Prize. The City of Gaziantep did its best to conserve Hışvahan as best as possible, re-introducing to the public it in August 2016 -this time with a new concept: Hotel, restaurant, and shop (AA, 2011). There are numerous hans with similar functions within Gaziantep’s borders. Hence, the transformation of Hışvahan was intended to awaken awareness among the surrounding area. Considering that it had originally functioned as lodging, the idea of adaptively reusing it as a hotel did not seem unusual. Thus, in staying true to its spirit, it was restored as lodging once again by being given a new lease on life as a boutique hotel with modern textures. The design of each hotel room alongside the building’s other units is such that the original character of the han has been maintained, and thus takes guests visiting the city on a journey back in time. Hışvahan is also open to the general public as well, not just tourists. Beyond lodging, it also houses a restaurant that offers visitors the chance to taste authentic Gaziantep cuisine. Lastly, an open space on the han’s terrace level presents visitors with a spectacular view of Gaziantep Castle. Likewise, a 1,000 m2 space at the heart of the inner courtyard can be converted into an open movie theatre during the summer and a stage for plays and other performing arts events – hence making Hışvahan truly multi-functional.
Adaptively reusing historic buildings has always been an important domain, and has always been treated with the utmost sensitivity. There currently are countless transformation, conservation, and adaptive reuse projects underway aimed at ensuring that historic buildings survive for future generations to come. Similar to the project discussed in this article, buildings deemed worthy of adaptively reusing not only carry historical significance but also would have been built with more than one function in mind -and yet no longer able to accommodate the needs and demands of modern society. However, not looking after them now would only make it impossible to salvage them down the road. This article examined Hışvahan’s adaptive reuse project. It looked at the building’s historical context, its transformation into a boutique hotel, restaurant, and shop, inline with the needs of the needs of its visitors/users, what sort of changes it underwent, and what it has given back to its city. The adaptive reuse of Hışvahan has the potentıal to set an example for other projects of a similar nature in terms of suggestions. This change in function and the successful outcome resulting from that shows that it has been accepted en mass by the city, locals, and tourists alike. When we focus on the tourism aspect of things in particular, we can see that Hışvahan is a sound source of business and revenue, and that it has benefited its surroundings. Hence, we can deduce that the city (of Gaziantep) has rather quickly embraced Hışvahan, and likewise that Hışvahan’s transformation brought the city many a positive development. To conclude, the act of adaptively reusing historic buildings and monuments -if properly done, and provided that the building’s historical, cultural, touristic elements are brought into the forefront- is, in fact, the act of passing them down to forthcoming generations, rather than letting become but a distant memory. As we have already mentioned, by doing this, we are making sure that such buildings are once again able to fully serve the public, therefore sustainably securing their presence.