From One Crossroads to Another, San Antonio Hosts Istanbul's Dr. Irem Gencer as Part of 2016 IEP

By Assist. Prof. Dr. Ceylan İrem Gençer, Yıldız Technical University (YTU), Istanbul, Turkey 
This summer, I am working for the Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) in the City of San Antonio, Texas. There are five Spanish Colonial Mission complexes situated along the San Antonio River, they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015. The Historic Missions District includes the World Heritage buffer zone around the missions as well as the corridors created by the avenues of Roosevelt and S Presa, which contain historic houses and commercial buildings. My task is to conduct a standing structure survey and help the City’s Cultural Historian, Claudia Guerra, formulate a Statement of Significance with recommended treatment of properties, including cultural treatment, for the Historic Missions District, focusing on these corridors.
The River is not only a significant asset for the Missions and the surrounding land, but also a cultural link uniting the local residents who have been cultivating the rich soil of the river basin land for centuries. In this regard, my initial task is to study the more densely urbanized areas in the District and define the contributing and non-contributing resources with the OHP team. Then I will continue on surveying the contributing resources. My final task will be to provide a recommendation for the preservation guidelines for the Missions District. In the meantime, I will be participating in the meetings related with World Heritage team and the Historic and Design Review Commission.

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Supporters of the San Antonio Missions celebrating the Missions’ inscription on the World Heritage List shortly after the World Heritage Committee’s final vote during its meeting in Bonn, Germany in July 2015.  Included in the picture are a number of representatives from the City of San Antonio including Mayor Ivy Taylor (third from right) and Historic Preservation Office director Shanon Miller. Also pictured, US/ICOMOS Chair Jan C.K. Anderson.  While San Antonio is the newest US World Heritage Site, it’s lost no time addressing issues of future development and pursuing cultural mapping and other innovative strategies.

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The five missions included in the San Antonio World Heritage site were selected based on their geographical and functional relationship in the San Antonio River Basin. The San Antonio River is an important connecting element of the properties and the buffer zone regulations protecting the sites was designed to ensure that this special role is retained.

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Dr. Irem Gencer comes to the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program from Istanbul, Turkey, an ancient crossroads city whose World Heritage-listed core uniquely integrates architectural masterpieces that reflect the meeting of Europe and Asia over many centuries. A relatively new member of the Restoration Department of Architecture Faculty at Yildiz Technical University (YTU), Dr. Gencer has already worked on a variety of survey and research projects in her native Turkey.
Irem wrote in her IEP application

I would like to continue my academic research in the field of historic preservation on the mitigation of the hazards of climate change and energy management in historic buildings.

She added, “considering the dominant presence of cultural heritage assets in the present building stock in Turkey, I believe that studying on this subject will be of utmost importance, as it is a relatively underexplored research field in heritage preservation in Turkey.” An understatement indeed, for a person whose home town boasts such masterpieces the ancient Hippodrome of Constantine, the 6th-century Hagia Sophia and the 16th-century Süleymaniye Mosque.
Irem will spend her summer with the Historic Preservation Office of the City of San Antonio, Texas where she will work on projects related to the Mission of San Antonio World Heritage Site. The missions were inscribed for the outstanding testimony they bear to an interweaving of cultures from the European and North American continents. Irem’s time in San Antonio will create new professional connections between these two World Heritage crossroads of culture and increase knowledge sharing on the contemporary challenges and opportunities they face.

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