Armenian architect monopolies and the remaking of local identities in eastern Anatolian border towns

Location:  Armenian Border

Year(s):  2016-2017

Grant Recipient: Alyson Wharton, University of Lincoln

Funding:  BIAA

Under BIAA SRI(s):  Migration, Minorities and regional identities


Through recourse to Ottoman archival research, oral history, Armenian printed texts and fieldwork on a variety of extant buildings, this project documents the activities of Armenian architects, who achieved monopolistic positions in rebuilding towns and cities across eastern Anatolia. Focusing on the Hamidian Period, the study takes account of changes at the imperial centre regarding how architectural works were managed in the last decades of the 19th and first decade of the 20th century, as documented by archival material. Yet, more significantly, the project foregrounds changes to local social, cultural and economic dynamics within urban centres, as viewed through the oral and Armenian histories, as important determinants of far-reaching changes to the built environment. It intends, therefore, to move away from the impression of the Hamidian-Era as one of control and manipulation over the lives of the people in the Ottoman East, or of top-down ‘remaking’ processes dominating Ottoman urban renewal, and to investigate instead the dynamics in a set of locations in the north and south east of Anatolia. Further to this, through looking at cities that changed hands, such as Kars and Erzurum, as well as comparative cases such as Gyumri (Armenia), the project also investigates the degree of movement of these ‘local’ peoples and ideas across cultural, regional, and imperial border zones. The study of the Ottoman urban environment in the east is thus repositioned as both a local and a connected enterprise. 

Resulting Publications: 

Alyson Wharton (2016), 'Armenian architect monopolies and the remaking of local identities in eastern Anatolia in the Hamidian period',  Heritage Turkey, BIAA Magazine (London). 

Alyson Wharton:

Working at Mardin Artuklu University from 2012 and moving to University of Lincoln (UK), in September 2015, I was glad to have the chance to return to Turkey to carry out fieldwork in the summer of 2016. This enabled me to supplement the work that I had been doing in Mardin. I stayed in Istanbul for a month and worked in the Ottoman Archives. I ended with a week-long trip around the north east from Van and Bitlis to Erzurum, Kars and Trabzon. There I studied the urban environment, particularly the buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century, issues of style, inscriptions and attributional evidence. I’m now back in Lincoln, converting the material into my second book. 

Belongs to;
Late Ottoman & Early Republican History

View other research