Dogu Karadenizie, Kirsal Mimari
Contributions by Afife Batur, Sengul Oymen Gur and a dictionary of Eastern Black Sea construction terms by Mustafa Resat Sumerkan
The book was prepared for an exhibition at the Milli Reasurans Art Gallery, 2005, curated by Ameli Edgu, the project’s coordinator
‘Most visitors who venture east of Trabzon, the great port city of Turkey’s northeast, head up to the high mountains, to walk across hills of breathtaking beauty covered in wild rhododendron, campanulas and primulas.
But the valleys have their treasures too, which visitors rush past when they head for the heights. Tea gardens, orchards and forests of chestnut and alder envelop these remote valleys in a thick mantle of green. And rising from this lushness are magnificent mansions and farmhouses, many at least a century old. They are handsome buildings, lovingly constructed of timber and stone, and perfectly fitted to the landscape and climate.
In their search for the riches of the eastern Black Sea region, the editorial team – photographer, publisher and architectural historian – set off from Trabzon towards the east. They wandered through the tea gardens of Çaglayan, a broad valley with stately, almost Elizabethan houses. They visited Çamlıhemﬂin, where merchants who had made fortunes abroad built massive mansions just a few yards from each other, and Hemﬂin, with its solid, stone-built farmhouses. In the more easily reached valleys above the small port of Arhavi, they found houses whose façades are draped with scented grapevines in the gentle climate. At ﬁavﬂat, well inland, close to the border with Georgia, they entered a landscape of Alpine chalets. And in the rainforest surrounding the tea country of Rize they visited wooden mosques that look for all the world like houses.
But these buildings are vanishing fast. When Ali Konyalı captured them on camera, he was doing so in the nick of time. City life is luring away the descendants of the men and women who built them. Inheritance laws divide and divide again until properties have dozens of owners and no single individual can take on the responsibility of maintaining them. And there is little or no funding for restoration. Many houses are simply abandoned, left to the mercy of the elements. Unless laws are passed and funds are found, this unsung heritage could soon be lost for ever.’