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Istanbul: Layers of History, Culture and Architecture | Spring 2010

International Conference and Chapter Meeting

Layers of History, Culture and Architecture | 8-12 April 2010

Istanbul is a city of layers with a history dating back to almost 2,700 years. Today, Europe’s most populous city with 12 million inhabitants, İstanbul had served as the capital city of Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. 

Now serving as modern Turkey’s cultural and financial capital (İstanbul is designated as 2010 European Capital of Culture together with Essen-Germany, Pecs-Hungary by European Union), Istanbul carries significant architectural entities such as mosques, synagogues, churches, palaces, towers and castles representing various chronological layers.

The city of Byzantion was near the Seraglio Point, with its Acropolis located where the Topkapi Palace stands now. When Romans captured Byzantion, they rased it to the ground and built new walls to the west of the old Byzantion walls. Constantinopolis was named the new capital of Eastern Rome and subsequently the Byzantine Empire for a thousand years. 

Following the Latin Empire, Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and became the capital of Ottoman Empire keeping its status until the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. İstanbul was officially adopted as a name in 1930.

Each period placed its visible mark on the architectural layer of the city. Despite the sweeping changes that have affected the city and the disappearance of the physical fabric as a result of transformations in the social structure, İstanbul still reflects in its public spaces the wealth of the cultural diversity it once possessed. 

Besides the strategic significance of its position on two continents, it takes place on the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea, with natural features formed by a topography in which sea and city are inextricably intertwined. Today, İstanbul might well be characterized as a city based on a multi-layered physical structure with varied influences and contradictions of Eastern and Western civilizations.

Speakers, expert in each different time layer of Istanbul, will help Conference participants to discover the details of the city, its architecture and culture. 

Tour planning includes:

  • Sultanahmet area highlights (Hagia Sophia, Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern)
  • Fener-Balat, the 19th century Christian quarter of Istanbul where the Greek Patriarchate and Orthodox Church and numerous other churches and synagogues are located where we will observe the UNESCO and European Union rehabilitation and restoration program
  • Buyukdere Avenue and Maslak where urban regeneration efforts along this city avenue by local and international architects 
  • Bosphorus Villages along the 31 kilometer strait carry examples of various layers such as Roman, Byzantium, Otoman and Republican periods
  • Topkapi Palace with an optional tour of Covered Bazaar

An optional sketching workshop to generate ideas for the city, which will be published in a book format, will earn extra LU’s for participating architects.

Conference participants will experience and learn of the layered urban structure of Istanbul through the lectures and tours and depart with an understanding of the policies behind the urban and architectural issues in a multi-cultural, multi-layered metropolis. The conference aims to show how local-global layers of history, culture and architecture successfully coexist in a dynamic urban setting.

Murat Soygenis, AIA, Conference chair


Conference attendees are responsible for booking accommodations. A list of suggested hotels has been assembled by the conference organisers. Istanbul also has a very active Airbnb community.

Conference Costs




Please direct any questions you may have to: