A master plan connived by the Culture Ministry foresees a day when Istanbul’s old town has been transformed into the main venue for arts and cultural events in the city.
Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, speaking to daily Milliyet, said the region known as "Sur-i Sultani," which encloses historical buildings such as Topkapı Palace, the Gülhane Park, Sirkeci Train Station, Hagia Sofia Museum and Aya Irini, would no longer be used for simple exhibitions or concerts.
"We will use Topkapı, Hagia Sofia Museum and Aya Irini for very special occasions. They may be used once a year. There is an old barracks nearby. We will empty it and use it for concerts," Günay said.
Topkapı Palace contains an old mint, a school, a hospital and military depots, all of which would be used for exhibitions and depots for the palace, said Günay. "The hospital will be used as an eatery and a depot," he said.
The Turkish Association of Travel Agents, or TÜRSAB, will be a partner for the restoration and the management of the old mint called Darphane.
Günay said he did not agree with the criticism directed at the cooperation with TÜRSAB. "They [TÜRSAB] will not earn any money. The purpose is to increase the number of visitors. They will also sponsor the restoration of the buildings," he said.
A section of the old hospital in the palace grounds will become a hotel, he said. "We are planning to turn the hospital into a boutique hotel. The school will be turned into a conservation facility. When the railway is removed, the palace will really look like a palace," he said.
The archeology museum will be enlarged by the addition of the nearby buildings to the complex, said the minister.
Efforts were underway to remove the Konyalı restaurant from within the palace grounds, he said, adding, "It is very unsuitable. We will use it as an exhibition center and a depot."
The master plan
The Culture Ministry’s project is seen as one of the main sections of Istanbul’s preparations to become the European Culture Capital next year.
The 2010 Museums Director Suay Aksoy, speaking to daily Radikal, said the Sur-i Sultani would be transformed into one of the most exquisite museum neighborhoods in the world.
"The master plan for the transformation of the area will become clearer next month. Visitors to Topkapı Palace often don’t know the Archeology Museum is also there. They are separated by a wooden barrier. It is not really pretty. Most visitors are directed to the palace. The weight should be equally dispersed into all that is in the Topkapı compound," Aksoy said.
The typical understanding of ’museum’ will be changed, the director said. "Rather than ’preserve and exhibit,’ we will also focus on ’education and communication.’ If these museums are to become educational institutions, people should be able to constantly come and go, with particular emphasis on temporary exhibitions," said Aksoy. The director also noted the importance of digital archives. Conducting joint projects with TÜRSAB is commendable, she said, but warned that the agreement lacked transparency.