Sinop’s heritage becomes catalyst for urban development

Sinop, which lies on the northernmost point of the Black Sea coast of Turkey, has a really interesting history, according to Melih Görgün, art director for the Sinop Biennale, or Sinopale. The city of Sinop, which has been a strategic point in the cultural and trade systems of the Black Sea region for thousands of years, is now ready to tap into the city’s cultural and artistic collective memory.

“The project, ‘Collecting the Future,’ is an academic work. We have focused on how we can use urban transformation, urban development, as well as culture and arts events together in a one project,” Görgün said.

As a result of 18 months of work and research, the committee sent the project to the European Culture Program. “This is a European Culture project and it is supported by the ‘Promotion of Civil Society Dialogue II’ grant program between the EU and Turkey,” Görgün said during a phone interview.

“Sinop is a city with a long history. We aim to reflect this history and culture in this project. With this step, Sinop will reveal is collective memory.

“Sinop was an active city in ancient times. We have a lot of information about this issue and we aim to reveal this in the project.”

The port of Sinop has been host to many civilizations throughout the Bronze, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman ages. Although the city was an important center for shipbuilding during the Ottoman period, it lost its function during the transformation of the empire. In 1887 the historical dockyards were converted into a prison complex. As a result, the shipbuilding and commercial center of the past became a prison town and was left to poverty. The geographic position of Sinop, on a foreland with only a single entry point, also contributed to the isolation of the city. In the Cold War era, Sinop became the “big ear” of the Western alliance and was used as a NATO base to monitor the USSR.

The aim of the project is to make everyone aware of these facts, said Görgün. “That’s why we will host many urban development and transformation experts in the seminars and meetings. The meetings will host experts from world culture centers such as Amsterdam and Vienna.”

However, said Görgün, “We do not want any art work that does not belong to Sinop, because we want to create its own collective memory via those art projects.”

The project will focus on works that are related to Sinop.

While doing this the project will pose answers to questions such as: What should the future of Sinop look like? What is worth saving or using from today and from the past when building and constructing the future? What was missing until now?

Sinop locals will have the chance to discuss the city’s heritage. The first international forum on Sept. 7 and 8 will have an opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge with local and European experts and artists.

In designing the future of Sinop, experts from think tanks will discuss planning processes in workshops. Topic will include urban design, tourism, re-functioning of heritage buildings, culture’s contribution to the city’s economy and the role of civil society in the city’s development. Ideas developed will be both published during the project in papers called Sinopsis and will be documented with a book after the project is finished.

Temporary city museum

During the project, Sinop will also have a temporary city museum project. “While collecting the future we also should benefit from the past,” said Görgün. “If we consider the long history of Sinop, then we can see the heritage of the city.”

In this museum the project would like to evaluate the city’s heritage and collective memory.

In his article written for Sinopsis, Sinopale’s magazine, Mahir Namur, European Culture Association president, wrote: “Sinop was a city that was outcast for many years. However now with the urban transformation, the city begins to open up and create its own values.”

It is a fact that Sinop entered the 20th century as a place isolated from the world. “The isolation of the city created other problems such as economic recession, unemployment and migration of young people from the city. The main employment facility of its citizens was the NATO base. After the collapse of the eastern bloc there has been no need for the NATO base in Sinop, which made the economy even worse and the main employment area was closed,” wrote Namur.

After a long period of isolation, it is expected that with this project, Sinop is now in the opening up process.

“Today, Sinop is getting more popular due to its values and resources coming from the past. The citizens are very excited about the new situation,” said Görgün.

While the meetings and seminars and also the arts works will help the city create and increase awareness of its value, it is expected that the current projects in Sinop will create even more awareness about the need to protect these values.

The best sustainable solution will be to put the case clearly and refresh the lost and existing values for the future. Economic investment can make a city rich for a short period of time, but cultural and artistic investments will develop the city in the long term and Sinop is ready for that kind of investment. k HDN