Centuries-old Istanbul buildings endure despite quake risk for modern edifices

Numerous historical structures in Istanbul are still standing resiliently after more than a century of construction, even though the city's relatively new earthquake-prone buildings number in the hundreds of thousands.

The sudden collapse of a building in the Küçükçekmece district at the beginning of June, resulting in the death of a resident, brought the issue of approximately 600,000 earthquake-prone structures back into the spotlight — a debate rekindled in the metropolis of 16 million residents following the massive earthquakes in the country's south last year.

However, while reports highlight the seismic vulnerability of tens of thousands of reinforced concrete buildings erected during the 1970s and 80s, the same concern does not extend to landmark structures built 100-200 years ago.

According to renowned Turkish architect Sinan Genim, the secret behind why these buildings enduring multiple earthquakes while modern structures crumble is not a mystery or enigma: It lies in high-quality materials, meticulous design, skilled craftsmen and maintenance and repairs that extend their lifespan — a point reiterated by many experts.

During a tour with the daily Milliyet, Genim provided insights into some iconic structures. He noted that the Vlora Han in Sirkeci was commissioned in 1904 by an Italian architect. The building's exterior walls are composed of stone cladding over brick, with a hybrid load-bearing system of steel framework and masonry brick walls. These features have contributed to its durability for more than a century although the Art Nouveau building has been waiting to be renovated for years now.

The Frej Apartment in Şişhane was constructed with masonry materials, featuring stone imported from Malta for the exterior...

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