Modern Turkey's Discovery
of the Ottoman Heritage:
The Ali Saim Ülgen Archive

Salt Galata

March 8 – April 7, 2013

Workers during the renovation of the Edirne Selimiye Bazaar vaults                                                                                                                                                                                              Edirne Selimiye Arastası’nın tonoz onarımında çalışan isçiler
(tarihi bilinmiyor)
Workers during the renovation of the Edirne Selimiye Bazaar vaults
(date unknown)

SALT Galata, Open Archive

The Open Archive project aims to present a cross-section of the state of cultural assets and conservation efforts in Turkey before the 1960s, based on the world of Ali Saim Ülgen, researcher, architect, and specialist in restoration of classical Ottoman architecture.

One of the pioneering architectural restoration experts of Turkey, Ülgen carried out hundreds of restorations not only in Turkey but also in Libya, Jerusalem, and Baghdad, collecting and producing all kinds of materials that document historical works, such as construction photographs, newspaper clippings, and articles, thus creating an extensive foundation for the books he would subsequently write. Unfortunately, he passed away too soon to complete many of his planned works.

The material Ülgen collected during his travels, not only in the course of the administrative duties he assumed during the long years he worked at the General Directorate of Foundations, but also as an aficionado and an academic, has been meticulously preserved by his family.

After preliminary classification by the Foundation of Architecture Turkey, these documents are now being digitized and catalogued at SALT Research for the use of researchers. The countless documents and photographs in the Ali Saim Ülgen Archive constitute an unparalleled visual resource on our cultural heritage as well as offering very important scientific data for new restoration projects. The Archive also sheds light on the architectural history, the approaches to restoration, and the preservation policies of an era.

The Open Archive exhibition introduces Ülgen’s unmatched collection of photographs, writings, notes, plans, and building surveys, together with examples of his manuscripts, to all those interested.

During a conference, to be held on February 8, 2013, the opening day of the exhibition, art historians, restoration specialists, architectural historians, and architects will discuss the place Ali Saim Ülgen holds in architectural historiography, as well as in the restoration and preservation practices of cultural assets.

Ali Saim Ülgen (1913-1963)
Ali Saim Ülgen graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in 1938 with a Master’s degree in architecture. In 1943 he taught in the department of architectural history. He worked for İstanbul Archaeological Museums as an architect, during which time he began his work related to monuments. In 1944 he was appointed director of the Monuments Department at the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums in Ankara. He also taught art history at the Faculty of Languages, History, and Geography of Ankara University. Ülgen was appointed a member of the High Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1951 and specialist advisor to the Department of Monuments and Buildings at the General Directorate of Foundations in 1953.

Ülgen drafted the building plans for a book on Mimar Sinan, to be prepared in accordance with Atatürk’s wishes.

Among his published works are Fatih Camii ve Bizans Sarnıcı [Fatih Mosque and Byzantium Cistern] (1939) and Anıtların Korunması ve Onarılması [Preservation and Restoration of Monuments] (1943). Ülgen also prepared a map titled “İstanbul in the Reign of Mehmet the Conqueror (1453-1481)”, and published numerous articles in different magazines and journals.