The International Urban Fellows, a program of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, recently held in Turkey its 31st annual conference, focusing on the dilemma of preserving that country's antiquities in an era of explosive urban growth.
The conference was organized by Tamer Gok, who spent a year at the IPS International Fellows Program at Homewood before returning home to an academic career as dean of the architecture faculty at the university in Mersin, a port city of 500,000 located on the Mediterranean coast. Mersin University, in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Culture, hosted the six-day conference, which took place in Mersin and Istanbul.
Opening the meeting, several mayors and Senol Engin, the governor of Icel Province, which encompasses Mersin, said they welcomed the opportunity to discuss ways to preserve their ancient, multilayered cultural heritage while fostering the new economic development essential to Turkey's future. Fellows attended sessions led by professors at Mersin, Middle East Technical and Istanbul Technical universities and by Turkish government officials. They toured ancient sites as well as new developments.
Sandra J. Newman, IPS director; Marsha R.B. Schachtel, Urban Fellows Program coordinator; and former fellows from 13 countries worked with their Turkish colleagues on recommendations in three areas: urban and regional growth, strategies for housing and urban renewal, and conservation and tourism. All three study groups called for reform at the national level of the legal and financial framework within which local governments operate. Specific recommendations included active management of national and historic man-made assets to expand tourism, systems change in housing finance and governance, and modifications in housing and building codes and in their enforcement.
"As outsiders, we were initially very concerned about the cultural appropriateness of our analyses and recommendations," Newman said. "But government leaders strongly encouraged us to provide our best insights, regardless of cultural differences."
Newman appeared on Turkish national TV news with Gok and Engin after the recommendations were presented. A final written report will be given to government leaders in the fall.
The International Urban Fellows Program, in its 31st year, is the longest running international fellows program in the United States with a focus on urban problems and policy. Each year, six to eight fellows from around the globe come to IPS for a semester or full year of research focused on urban problems and policy. Last year's conference was "Baltimore in Transition: How Do We Go From Decline to Revival?" Held in Baltimore, it focused on reversing the decline of post- industrial cities.