1913 - 1963

ALİ SAİM ÜLGEN ARCHIVE: BUILDING OF A CULTURAL MEMORY AND A PERSONAL HISTORY

SALT

Ali Saim Ülgen Archive, which was pre-classified by Architecture Foundation under the leadership of Ahmet Ersoy, was transferred to SALT Research in 2012 and exhibited under the name “Modern Turkey’s Discovery of the Ottoman Heritage: Ali Saim Ülgen Archive” in 2013. It is considered to be a treasure in terms of its potential, size, the value of the documents and the comprised hints of Ali Saim Ülgen’s life and personality, and Ottoman Heritage. The selection called “Ali Saim Ülgen Archive: Construction of a Cultural Memory and a Personal History” was aimed to offer a profile of the archive by showing documents of different types, sizes, and characteristics. The selection offers a double reading of this great archive, which was filled with 50 years of Ali Saim Ülgen’s life. The first term is to value the archive as a large visual database, the second, and most important term, is to trace Ali Saim Ülgen’s life through the documents, as is in every personal archive. The archive, comprising og photos, survey drafts and drawings, maps, brochures, correspondences, notes and other kinds of documents, allows different readings, researches and different perspectives, and also gives essential details of the Ottoman monuments.
Ali Saim Ülgen’s Personal Documents
When evaluating the Ali Saim Ülgen Archive, the first section to be considered is the personal documents of Ülgen. A large number of identifications, personal letters, photos of himself and his family, and similar documents are also traces of his personal life. Ali Saim Ülgen graduated from the Fine Arts Academy in 1938 with a Master’s degree in architecture. As an intern he first went to Germany and then to France by the invitation of Albert Gabriel, where he studied restoration and preservation of monuments. When he came back to Turkey, he worked as an assistant to Prof. Celal Esad Arseven for History of Architecture Class at the Fine Arts Academy. In 1943 he taught in the department of architectural history. He worked for Istanbul Archeological Museums as an architect, during which time he began his work related to monuments. In 1944 he was appointed director of the Monuments Departement at the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums in Ankara. He also taught art history at the Faculty of Languages, History and Geography at Ankara University. Ülgen was appointed a member of the High Council of Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1951 and specialist advisor to the Departement of Monuments and Buildings at the General Directorate of Foundations in 1953. He lost his life in 1963, after working on monumnets for the majority of his lifetime.
Exhibition of Photos
The most remarkable section of the Ali Saim Ülgen Archive is the photos, taken or collected by Ali Saim Ülgen on his trips, researches and works, in different sizes, colors and specialities. These photos offer a large visual database beside documenting historical monuments. Photos including existing or non-existing monuments to the cultural heritage not only show the process of restoration and preservation, but also give the audience a clue of Ali Saim Ülgen’s destinations and the Anatolian landscape of the time.
Restoration Works
Working for the General Directorate of Pious Foundations for years and participating in restorations of thousands of monuments, Ülgen’s drawings and sketches are one of the most important roles of the archive. This section comprises different kinds of documents from small survey sketches to large application drawings. Beside showing the current situation of the monument, they also give examples of restoration practices from back then. This section also includes the correspondences of institutions like the Pious Foundations or the Foundation of Monuments. These correspondences comprise lists of planned restorations, registrations of workers and detailed descriptions of past year’s works.
Academical
The Ali Saim Ülgen Archive also comprises of many academical documents from his time as a professor at Ankara University. Ülgen wrote many academical articles, prepared dozens of book drafts but due to his perfectionist character, too few of them were published as he never stopped working on them. The archive, besides few articles published by the Pious Foundations, includes many unfinished papers and book drafts. Another section of the academical documents are notes for the Architectural History class, written by Ali Saim Ülgen himself. The importantance is that besides writing a history of architecture he re-constructs Turkish history. He builds a progressive history from the Middle Ages up to today. His interest in the Turkish nation is not irrelevant with the constructed trends on Turkish History Thesis of the time, or with the writings of Ziya Gökalp. The time stands out with its trends on building new national history and architecture. Under these terms it’s not much coincidence for Ülgen to be interested in the same theme.
City Guides
Another generic part of the archive is Ülgen’s interest in city guides. As well as collecting various guides from the cities he visited, he himself created an “İstanbul Tourist Plan” on his own. This project was actually supposed to comprise İzmir, Ankara, Bursa and Konya as well, these drafts are also included in the archive. However, due to financial reasons, only the İstanbul guide was realized. There are also various drafts and sketches of the guides he was working on.
Ali Saim Ülgen as a Traveller
Not only the neccesities of his profession but also his personal tendencies made him an extraordinary traveller. From coffee bags to napkins, from brochures to subway tickets, he collected and kept everything from his trips.
Designer Architect
There are also few, but important designs of his own in the archive. He designed various mosques, houses, monuments and some projects for the competitions, along with some furniture designs.
Mimar Sinan Book
One of the greatest values of the archive is the manuscript of the unfinished book of Mimar Sinan, which he considered the work of his life. The project was started under the initiative of Afet İnan, then director of the Turkish History Foundation. It is possible that Atatürk requested this book and delegated it to Afet İnan. The historical texts of the book were intended to be written by historian Fuat Köprülü, the architectural history texts by Alnert Gabriel, and the drawings to be done by Ali Saim Ülgen. Although this project was never realized, Ali Saim Ülgen finished the drawings and they were publishe by the Turkish Historical Foundation in 1989. Ali Saim Ülgen also produced a text for the book, but it only remained as a manuscript. This script and the drawings are included in the archive.
“It was the year 1930. I had already been exposed to an intense pleasure that would overshadow the raptures of youth, and was taken completely by the charm of İstanbul’s monuments” Ali Saim Ülgen, 1946
Credits: Story

Aslı Can, SALT Research.
Special thanks to Ahmet Ersoy and Suha Ülgen.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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