Despite calls from various community organisations the state took no action for years, and the Büyükada Greek Orthodox orphanage has been in danger of collapsing since it was abandoned in 1964. Finally, preliminary work has been completed on the restoration project for this beautiful building.
This historical building was constructed by architect Alexander Vallauri in 1898 as a hotel and casino, however, the Ottoman Emperor Abdulhamid II refused to allow the hotel to operate, and later the building was purchased by the wife of a leading Greek banker and donated to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul on the condition that it be used as an orphanage. The building was indeed used as an orphanage for years, and was finally taken out of service by the state in 1964, since when its use has been forbidden.
On 27 August a meeting on the restoration process of the orphanage was held in its grounds on the island of Büyükada in Istanbul.
Laki Vingas, coordinator of the Büyükada Orphanage Restoration Project, spoke first at the meeting. He made some predictions about the restoration and some of the challenges there may be in the process. Explaining that preliminary work had already been completed on the project, Vingas stated that a workshop will be held in the coming months in order to clarify the future function of the building.
“It is an important step that will be taken by all of us; the state, the patriarchate, local councils and non-governmental organisations; to take responsibility for the building and recover it for Istanbul.” he said.
Nazım Akkoyunlu, Deputy General Manager of Bosphorus Construction Consultancy (BİMTAŞ), a subsidiary of the Greater Istanbul City Council, the executor of the restoration project, emphasised that 50% of the roof of the orphanage is already destroyed and the remainder is damaged. He gave the following information about the building:
“Some 60% of the fourth floor is collapsed and 40% of the third and fourth floors are broken. The floor beams have lost 60% of their load-bearing capacity. A protective cover system and support elements should be put in place so that the structure does not collapse.” he said.
The building has a symbolic importance for the Greek Orthodox community in Turkey. Laki Vingas explains this as follows:
“While this building and the values it represents point to the rich history of Greek Orthodox society in these lands, the fact that the building is in ruins reflects the mood of Greek Orthodox culture here. The restoration of the Büyükada Greek Orthodox orphanage will be a very meaningful development for the repair of this mood.”