Cultural Heritage and Urban Development in Istanbul




Axel Timpe


+49 241 80 95061



Students of Architecture from RWTH Aachen and four partner universities in Turkey participated in a summer school in Istanbul, where they developed a vision for the Theodosian Walls, which were declared a World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 1985. The summer school was initiated by the RWTH Department of Landscape Architecture headed by Professor Frank Lohrberg. Also involved in the summer school were the Department of History of Urbanization and the UNESCO Chair in World Cultural and Urban Landscapes.


The year 2013 sees the 1600th anniversary of the completion of the Theodosian Walls, which were completed in 413. The walls, which are of Roman-Byzantine origin, once protected Constantinople against attacking armies. Along the walls, there is a green corridor of open space – one of the few green spaces in the metropolis of Instanbul –, including parks and traditional agricultural land.

A number of developments, however, are currently threatening this cultural heritage: the walls are deteriorating and in part close to collapse, and due to infrastructural changes and growth, the walls and the accompanying "green" corridor are in danger of losing their identity even more. Thus, a comprehensive strategy is needed to preserve the walls and their surroundings and make them part of a sustainable urban development project.

Concepts to Include the Theodosian Walls in an Urban Development Project

After a site visit and the attendance of several introductory talks by local experts, the summer school participants worked in close collaboration to develop six different concepts for the protection and increased accessibility of the walls, including designs for the surrounding urban spaces. At the end of the summer school, in a final presentation, these concepts were publicly exhibited and presented to all actors involved in urban development.

The eight participating students from RWTH Aachen will further develop their ideas as part of a one-semester project.

According to Axel Timpe, research assistant at the Department of Landscape Architecture, “the RWTH students were enthusiastic about the hospitality of their Turkish counterparts. Return visits by Turkish students are already planned, and in teaching and learning we are looking forward to organizing further summer schools on the topic of cultural heritage and urban development.”