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Ayvalık Industrial Landscape

Date of Submission: 15/04/2017
Criteria: (iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
District of Ayvalık, Province of Balıkesir
Coordinates: N39 19 00.9 E26 41 31.4
Ref.: 6243

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Geographical and Natural Characteristics of the Region:

Ayvalık is a province of Balıkesir, which is located in north-western Turkey, and bordered by Burhaniye in the north, Dikili in the south and Bergama in the east. Ayvalık, which is located in the western edge of an inner sea created by Anatolia and Lesbos in the northern Aegean Sea, is a unity composed of a collection of 22 islands, the biggest of which is Cunda/Alibey, and hills, coves, bays, peninsulas and straits formed by this natural structure. This natural structure that can be traced in the islands and coastline created an inner sea between Ayvalık and Cunda Island, which in turn made Ayvalık a protected natural harbour.

The geographical settings of Ayvalık, which is defined by the sea in the west, is surrounded with Kaz Mountains (average altitude: 1774m) and Gömeç plain; Altınova province in the south; and Madra Mt. (1200m) that stretches from the north-east to the south-east in an arch form in the east.

This unique geography where Aegean Sea meets the mainland and which is defined by Kaz Mountains in the north and Madra Mt. in the east is covered with olive groves and rich in terrestrial and marine species1 and hosts species endemic2 to the northern Aegean region.


“Olive-groves” a component of the natural character of Ayvalık cover almost 41.3% of the region and constitute the natural background and main source of the industrial landscape. Olive groves, which cover almost 13.200 ha, are composed of more than 2 million olive trees and are the main component of this natural environment. The olive tree originates from the wild olive (olea oleaster) which existed as local specie among other continental species and was domesticated and converted to genetically endemic specie.

Olives specific to this region are characterised with their high oil content (ratio) (approx. 24% of the olives have oil content). The distinctive organoleptic structure and strong chemical features of the olive-oil produced from this specific type of ‘olive’ makes it an important and unique for ‘oil’ production.

In this respect, the specific chemical structure and the components of this ‘olive’ specific to this region is what makes the Ayvalık olive-oil unique in character.

History and Development:

According to written sources, there have been settlements in Ayvalık region since the antiquity. The islands including Cunda (Moschonisi) around Ayvalık (Kydonia) were called “Hekatonnessos” (Apollo’s Islands) in the antiquity. While written sources mention of the settlements -Nasos, Pordoselini and Chalkis- in Cunda, which is the largest of these islands, there are only few remains3 at present (Psarros, 2004, Yorulmaz, 2005: 34-36).

Sources also indicate that there has been an established community in Cunda since the 10th cent. On the other hand, Ayvalık has developed as a settlement where Christians and Muslims lived together since 1580 (Psarros, 2004; Bayraktar 1998: 6-17). The rapid development of the settlement started after the 18th century (Terzibaşoğlu, 2001, 54-55; Darkot, 1948, 78).

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Ayvalık was an important Greek settlement. In 1890 under the Ottoman rule, Greeks made up almost the entire population reaching 21.666. As a result of advances in production of olive and side-products Ayvalık became an important trade port after 1880s. This success in economy produced an unparalled cultural identity which found its physical expression in the cultural patterns and building types, materials etc. constituting the urban fabric itself in the 19th century.

The effects of the period of political instability in the Ottoman State between the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence (1920) were seen in Ayvalık too. In the end of this period, during which the political and demographic structures of the region was entirely changed, Greeks of Ayvalık were forced to migrate to different places in the Greek mainland while Turks from Lesbos and Macedonia (especially from Thessalonica) were resettled in Ayvalık and those from Crete in Cunda as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne signed in 1923 (Arı, 1995: 11, 37, 176; Hirschon, 2000: 65).

While the majority of the population (approx.33.894) in Ayvalık consisted of Greek origin in 19144, the census data in 1927 (after the population exchange between Turkey and Greece) shows that population in Ayvalık had dramatically decreased to approx.16.837 (Bayraktar, 1998:34, 70,89 ; Balcı Akova, 2011: 64). With respect to this data (in 1927), which indicates that Ayvalık had lost approx. 50% of its population, it can be assumed that some of the buildings were abandoned and a portion of existing building stock became out of use after the population exchange. While the new residents coming from Crete, Lesbos (/ˈlɛzbɒs/, US /ˈlɛzboʊs/; Greek: Λέσβος Lesvos, pronounced [ˈle̞zvo̞s]), sometimes referred to as Mytilini) and Macedonia (especially Thessalonica) tried to revitalize agricultural production in Ayvalık, the earthquake that took place in 1944 caused great destructionwithin the settlement. The population of Ayvalık started to increase only after 1950s when olive production and relevant industrial sectors started to develop (Balcı Akova, 2011: 64, 66). From this period until 1980s the number of factories in the city has increased, existing workshops have been modernized and converted to factories, olive-oil and soap production have been boosted in the hands of family enterprises and eventually in 1960s Ayvalık olive-oil has become prominent.

The Development Plan, prepared in 1972, was implemented in a large extent in Ali Çetinkaya neighbourhood; however developments projected for Cunda and Lale Islands could not be realized because of lack of new building demand. The decision of removing the olive-oil factories outside the city, which was proposed with this Plan, started to be implemented by the 1980s. Again in the same period, great extent of the historic settlement in Ayvalık and Cunda was declared “Natural and Historic Conservation Area” by the Superior Council for Immovable Antiquities and Monuments in 1976 and the temporary development conditions for the area were determined in 1978.5 Existing Development Plan has been implemented with certain revisions in the areas outside the boundaries of the Conservation Area until 1982 (Şahin, 1986:28-35). In accordance with the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties Law (Kültür ve Tabiat Varlıklarını Koruma Kanunu) No. 2863, 23/07/1983 enacted in 1983, Ayvalık was assigned to the newly established Bursa Regional Conservation Council for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties and in 1989, three intermediary council decisions considering revisions in definitions and boundaries of the Conservation Areas in Ayvalık and transition period development conditions were taken.

Meanwhile, the 1/5000 and 1/1000 scale Regional Development Plans for the districts of Ayvalık and Cunda, which remain outside the Conservation Area boundaries, were prepared and approved in 1990. On the other hand, 1/500 and 1/1000 scale Conservation Plans for ‘urban’ Conservation Areas were prepared under the supervision of İzmir Dokuz Eylul University, Faculty of Architecture, Department of City and Regional Planning and approved in 1994. This Conservation Plan is still in effect for the ‘urban’ Conservation Areas in Ayvalık (Şahin, 1986:28-35; 2016). According to this plan, there are currently 1855 registered buildings in Ayvalık.

In a period of 14-18 years between the first decision taken in 1976 and 1990 -1994, new development areas were only permitted outside the boundaries of ‘urban’ Conservation Areas in Ayvalık and Cunda. In these new areas especially summer houses and touristic buildings were constructed. Building density was kept at minimum in new development areas The most important change brought by the Development Plan was removal of factories, which cause pollution in the city, to the new industrial zones located outside the city. Although this transformation, which was inevitable due particularly to the modernization the olive-oil production, solved some problems in the city, it caused majority of the industrial buildings in the city centre to become non-functional. However, although in a limited extent, a tendency to protect the industrial buildings has emerged by the 2000s because certain local family enterprises started their business in the city centre. As a result of the initiatives of the Municipality of Ayvalık to protect the cultural heritage and support of many local NGOs, this tendency has paved the way for definition of an organized conservation process.

When all these developments are evaluated together, it is seen that the existing historic industrial and commercial cores and the residential fabric around them in Ayvalık and Cunda are still protected in a holistic manner. Although the number of abandoned and neglected historic buildings among the current building stock in the historic quarters of the city is high, buildings with different properties both in the historic city centre and in the residential fabric have reached the present day with partial functional changes yet keeping their originality.

Ayvalık, the settlement and its architectural features:

Ayvalık, an important trade port with an olive-based industry from the 19th century onwards, was known by different names such as: Κυδωνίαι, Cydonia in Ancient Greek, Αϊβαλί, Ayvali or Κυδωνίες, Kidoniyes in Contemporary Greek and آيوالق in the Ottoman Turkish.

Ayvalık, which is laid in a linear urban form, still maintains a rich variety of buildings from the 19th century. The industrial and commercial core of Ayvalık city is located in the coastline. Ataturk Boulevard, the main transportation axis of the city separates this linear production and trade zone from the urban tissue in the north. While administrative and commercial buildings are usually located in the cape, which is also called “Kanelo” in the centre of the coastline, factories, olive-oil workshops, soap workshops, and other workshops spread to the north and south.

The main city square is located in the south-east of Kanelo. Historic depots and factories are located in the south-east of the city centre. While the commercial core follows the Kanelo axis and extends to the east of Ataturk Boulevard, depots region, stretching toward the residential zones in the east, crosses with narrow streets laid in the grid-iron plan formation.

Complying with the topography, the street pattern follows an irregular grid-iron plan. The residential zone stretches from the coast to the east and is bordered by a pine grow which was created in the 1960s. The residential zone has been developed around the Taxiarchis Church, which is located in the oldest part of the city and presently used as a museum and extends in an organic pattern towards Sakarya hill in the east. In the south, on the other hand, there are old manors and new villas that were usually constructed in a single row. The residential zone stretches towards east in a narrow band after Paşa Limanı in the Çamlık quarter.

Industrial buildings used for production and/or storage of olive-oil and other side-products (i.e. soap) within Ayvalık can be categorized into two groups: olive-oil factories, workshops used for olive and soap production and/or depots. Among those, the buildings with the largest program are olive-oil factories. Making up more than twenty in number within the building stock in Ayvalık, these large building complexes were kept functioning from the 19th century to the end of 1970s by making modernizations to adapt the latest olive-oil production technology or with partial renovations. These include the old examples such as Sezai Madra Olive-Oil Factory which was very advanced and large in its construction period as well as the examples such as Kırlangıc Factorywhich was expanded with additions in time and Vakıflar Olive-Oil Factory, which was initially constructed as a complex. Similarly, there are also smaller scale buildings used by family enterprises.

Brick chimneys, which were the integral parts of olive-oil factories, were the most important aspect of the urban identity until the 1980s. However, after the factories were removed outside the settlement, majority of these chimneys were deteriorated due to lack of maintenance, and their upper parts were partially demolished. Even though, almost all of them are present currently.

Apart from large scale factories, the most widespread building type in Ayvalık city centre is workshops and/or depots. These buildings are located in grid-iron planned streets the width of which change between 4m and 8m. Majority of these buildings (approx.71%) are single-floored but there are two and three storied examples. They are single space large scale structures. These buildings cover an entire building block and usually do not include any opening. Although constructed in a uniform plan, they display a variety basing on the form of the roof and pediment, building entrances, existence of façade elements (such as doors, windows, architraves, railings etc.) and symmetrical order. These buildings, which were constructed as olive-oil workshops, soap workshops, and/or depots, are also used in different purposes presently.

The buildings forming the residential fabric in Ayvalık include churches, some of which have been converted to mosques, schools that were constructed adjacent to churches and houses. In addition to those, there are few shops, coffee shops, or workshops in the residential fabric.

It is known that prior to the population exchange, there were eleven churches in Ayvalık and close vicinity (Psarros, 2004; Şahin Güçhan et al., 2007; Niğdelioğlu, 2000; Gündoğmaz, 2003) but only seven of them have survived to the present day. Among these seven churches, four of them have been converted to mosques and still in use. Taxiarchis Church (1844), which has been repaired and converted to a museum, is the oldest and central church of the city (N. Şahin Güçhan et al., 1997: 415-435).

The churches that were converted to mosques are Hagios Ioannis Church, (1869-1870, today, Saatli Mosque, Kato Panagia Church (1850, today, Hayrettinpaşa Mosque) and Hagios Georgios Church (1880-1881, today, Çınarlı Mosque). The holy well structure, which is known Phaneromeni or Hagiasma is a private property and have been used in olive-oil production for a long time. Hagia Triada Church (1846), which was used for storage purposes in the past, is in a severe condition at present. These two churches were expropriated by the Municipality of Ayvalık recently and projects are in progress for their protection and public use.

The only historic mosque of the city is the Hamidiye Mosque, construction of which was initiated in 1895. The mosque displays the features of the 19th century neoclassical architecture and is still in use.

Another important component of the residential fabric in Ayvalık is the schools, which were constructed, attached to the churches, and constituted the core of the neighbourhood. These buildings, which continued their function after the population exchange, are single storied stone masonry buildings elevated one meter over the ground.

The most important component of the residential fabric in Ayvalık is the Ayvalık Houses, which give the settlement its unique character. These houses, which usually built in long and narrow building lots in row formation facing towards the street, are one, two or maximum three-floored including a mezzanine. The narrow side of the building lots, where the main building is situated are oriented to the street. Therefore the building façades are also narrow and entrance is directly from the street. Every house has a courtyard and/or a garden, which is located in the backside of the building lot. Depending on the position of the building lot, there may be a separate courtyard/garden entrance. As a result, the streets are defined by the house façades in Ayvalık.

The alcove in the street façades of the houses, which is formed by the entrance door and stairway, provides movement in the masses altogether with projections and balconies extending towards the street. The façades of these buildings, which were constructed with stone masonry, are enhanced with fine cut stone blocks emphasising building corners, decorated window and door jambs, and floor mouldings. The façades, in the transition to tiled roofs, are finished with cornices and given a monumental appearance with triangular pediments. The architectural elements in the façades are made with a local variety of stone called Sarımsak Taşı. Rubble stone parts in the façades are plastered and painted in vivid blue, yellow, pink, or tan distemper. Wooden or iron shutters painted in pastel colours and exquisite wrought iron fences used in doors, windows and balconies and buttresses are as decorated as those in monuments.

Therefore, these houses, which actually have narrow façades appear quite monumental from the street with rich and highly decorated façade elements. The houses, almost all of which were built in the 19th century, have all features of the traditional architecture of Mediterranean and Aegean geography. In addition to displaying the features of the Neo-Classical architecture, with the splendour in their narrow façades these houses constitute the spirit of the traditional architecture in Ayvalık.

Another distinguishing feature of Ayvalık houses is the reflection of the spaces locally called mağaza (shop), which are used as olive, olive-oil or soap depots and/or workshops, on the façades. These spaces, which are accessible directly from the street, can be designed in a very plain fashion or they can be decorated as the shops in the city centre. Presence of these depots and/or workshops indicates how olive-based production has shaped the order of house façades. In addition to the main entrances, the houses may include one or two doors on their street façades if they involve a workshop, depot, or both. Although they are not as emphasised as the main entrance door, the doors are decorated with stone jambs and iron railings and enhance the splendour of the building façade.

1 Terrestrial species: Poecilimon Mytilensis, Centaurea Acicularis ve Campanula Lyrata etc; Marine species: Paramuricea clavata, Eunicella cavolini, Eunicella singularis, Posidonia Oceanica etc.

2 Red Coral and seagrass (Posidonia Oceanica) live in Ayvalık, where Mediterranean marine endemic species diffuse into the northern Aegean Sea. Anotherfeature of the marine geography of the region is salt marshes, coastal dunes, and saltpans which hosts migratory birds.

3 There is not any thorough research on settlement/building remains dated to the antiquity in the islands around Ayvalık and Cunda. However, on the basis of field surveys, Lale Island and certain parts of Cunda were designated as 3rd Degree Archaeological Sites. Yorulmaz (2005: 1176) states that the structure in Maden Island, which is referred to as Pordoselini Tower, is dated to the ancient period by the experts. In the field surveys conducted by Dr. Engin Beksaç (2001: 283-288) new discoveries regarding settlement remains were made.

4 The Muslim population in Ayvalık was just over 450 (approx.1.3 %) in this period. (Balcı Akova, 2011: 64).

5“Transition Period Development Decisions” which was to be valid until the completion of “Conservation Plan” were prepared by the Ministry of Development and Housing, General Directorate of Planning and Settlement and took effect upon the Decision No: A-1205 of the Superior Council for Immovable Antiquities and Monuments on June 9th 1978. (Şahin, 1986:28-35).

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Ayvalık geography, with an olive forest of 2.000.000 trees, including hundreds of olive trees that currently are over 500 years old, has an exceptional value forming a whole that consists of:

- Terrestrial features consisting of Mediterranean endemic species of Poecilimon Mytilensis (Yellice Island), Centaurea Acicularis and Campanula Lyrata;

- Marine species such as fan corals like the red coral (Paramuricea Clavata) and other fan corals (Eunicella Cavoli, Eunicella Singularis) which are again endemic to the Mediterranean existing here in Aegean and also Neptune Grass (Posidonia Oceanica) as marine species;

- Halophytic meadows in coastal rocks, coastal dunes and salt marshes hosting migratory birds such as flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber), ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea); and

- Natural and aesthetic beauties formed by morphologic features created by an archipelago of a total of 22 islands including Alibey (Cunda).

The industrial landscape of Ayvalık, defined by a specific geography, at the western edge of an inner sea created by Central Anatolia and Lesbos in the north Aegean Sea, provides exceptional testimony to the areas’ regional importance in olive-oil production from the 19th century onwards.

The major preserved sites of Ayvalık, together with its port and traditional settlement, and the outstanding landscape of olive groves (13.200 ha.) which surrounds them, provide an extraordinarily comprehensive picture of all the elements of the industrialisation process: olive-oil factories, an articulated network of production and/or storage units for the production of olive-oil and other side products (i.e.soap), traditional houses (which distinguishes with their extraordinary plan-layout which incl. spaces used for olive, olive-oil and/or soap storage and/or production on a smaller scale).

The area reflects the pre-eminence of Ayvalık in the production of olive-oil in the 19th century.

It is an outstanding example of continuing land-use(productive landscape), in which the collective effort of generations even after 1923 with the Lozan Treaty (population exchange between Turkey and Greece) the new residents coming from Crete, Lesbos (/ˈlɛzbɒs/, US /ˈlɛzboʊs/; Greek: Λέσβος Lesvos, pronounced [ˈle̞zvo̞s], sometimes referred to as Mytilini after its capital, is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea) and Macedonia (especially Thessalonica) continued traditional management practices of natural resources (olive) given its extraordinary challenging political and economical conditions.

Criterion (iii): The cultural landscape of the olivegroves (13.200 ha.) within and/or around Ayvalik provide outstanding living testimony to olive growing and olive-oil production traditions that stem from a long history, and that have been continuously improved and adapted up to the present day.

They constitute an exceptional illustration in material form of the social and economic structure of 19th century industry (based on olive production in western Anatolia).

Criterion (v): The industrial landscape of Ayvalık is an outstanding example of continuing land-use, in which the collective effort of generations even after 1923 with the Lozan Treaty the new residents coming from Lesbos (/ˈlɛzbɒs/, US /ˈlɛzboʊs/; Greek: Λέσβος Lesvos, pronounced [ˈle̞zvo̞s]), sometimes referred to as Mytilini after its capital, is a Greek island located in the northeastern Aegean Sea) and Macedonia (especially Thessalonica) continued traditional management practices of natural resources in extraordinary challenging political and economical conditions. The olive production produced an unparalleled cultural identity, which finds its physical expression in the cultural patterns and buildings used for olive-oil production as well as the traditional settlement itself.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Ayvalık has been designated as an ‘urban’ conservation area with the Superior Council for Immovable Antiquites and Monuments Decision No.A-160 in 1976 and thus protected and managed within the framework of the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties Law (Kültür ve Tabiat Varlıklarını Koruma Kanunu) No. 2863, 23/07/1983 as amended by the Law No. 5226, 14/07/2004.

Its immediate surrounding landscape setting has been designated as a ‘natural’ conservation area with the Superior Council for Immovable Antiquites and Monuments Decision No.A-4000 in 1978.

The total designated area of Ayvalık settlement together with its immediate landscape setting (incl. the ‘natural’ conservation area) is 140 ha.

Within the area which is designated as an ‘urban’ conservation area there are 81 monuments (Group I) and 1774 listed buildings (Group II – this incl. buildings that are examples of civil architecture) registered to the national inventory.

The olive groves, surrounding the settlement, which is one of the main elements of the property are protected within the framework of the Olive-Production Improvement Law (Zeytinciliğin Islahı ve Yabanilerinin Aşılattırılması Hakkında Kanun) No.3573, 26/01/1939 (as amended by the Law No.4086, 28/02/1995).

They are also protected through the 1/25.000 Regional Development Plan approved in 1995 as “areas of specific crop whose agricultural characteristics to be maintained”.

The olive groves located at the northern part of Ayvalık and within the Alibey Island has been designated as a ‘natural’ conservation area with the Bursa Regional Conservation Council for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties Decision No.795, 28/10/1989.

In addition to all these statutory protection mechanisms, the areas east and south of Ayvalık and most of the Hakkı Bey Peninsula located at the west are protected through the Forestry Law No. 6381, 31/08/1956. Parts of Alibey Island (approx.17.950 ha.) and areas of 20 other islands out of the total 22 islands located within the Ayvalık region has been designated as a ‘natural park’ and thus protected within the National Parks Law (Milli Parklar Kanunu) No.2873, 11/08/1983.

Apart from the destruction caused during the construction of the Ataturk Blvd. (Boulevard) in the 1950s the property is characterised by a high level of uniformity, in which the defining elements: the olive groves (which surrounds the designated urban areas), the spatial organisation of the factories, workshops and/or depots used for production and/or storage of olive-oil and soap retain their visual integrity to a considerable extent. The functional and socio-economical integrity, however, is today fragile due to the progressive increase of government infrastructure investments and possibly related development pressures. The entire immediate landscape setting, witness to the same development processes acts as a buffer zone to the property. Today, the property does not seem to suffer from immediate development and/or environmental pressure(s), although the highly fragile nature of the surrounding landscape may pose threats to the property and these should be carefully monitored over time.

Comparison with other similar properties

Although there are other areas of similar natural character (in terms of olive quality and olive-groves) within this particular region, an industrial and trade port character did not develop in the Edremit Region and in Mytilene [(Greek: Μυτιλήνη Mytilini [mitiˈlini]) is an ancient city founded in the 11th century BC. Mytilene is the capital and port of the island of Lesbos] as it did in Ayvalık and olive-oil production was limited to the peripheries of the settlements and to workshops, mills and a limited number of factories in the countryside.

Whereas in Ayvalık, the continous land-use and the extent of olive-oil production and its traditions produced an unparalleled cultural identity, which found its physical expression in the cultural patterns and buildings used for olive-oil production as well as the traditional settlement itself. Incl. (large scale) factory buildings and an articulated network of production units incl. approx.100 of workshops and depots used for production and/or storage of olive-oil and other side products (i.e. soap).

In Spain which has the highest olive-oil production in the world (1.11 million tons out of a total of 2.8 million tons of olive-oil in the world in 2013 was produced by Spain) the cities of Úbeda and Baeza in the Jaen region (Spain, 2003, criteria (ii) and (iv)) have entered the UNESCO World Heritage List. However, area definitions and criterion evaluations do not include the definition of an industrial city.

As for Italy that has the second highest production of olive-oil in the world (out of a total of 2.8 million tons of olive-oil produced in the whole world in 2013, 0.44 million tons was produced in Italy), similar to Spain, the production is limited to the countryside and is carried out in mills and workshops. Although large quantities of production were carried out in these cities, the olive industry was not that much determining in the formation of the cities and industrial buildings were not that much located within these settlements.

However, in Ayvalık olive-groves and production based on olive was the most important factor determining the form and extent of the traditional settlement and thus formation of the industrial landscape of Ayvalık which constitutes a significant example of the Aegean agricultural landscape.

When other industrial landscapes already inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, those inscribed on the Tentative List, and others mentioned in the ICOMOS thematic studies are examined - these are: the Land of Olive and Vines – Cultural Landscape of Southern Jarusalem, Battir (Palestine, 2014, criteria (iv) and (v)), Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila (Mexico, 2006, criteria (ii), (iv), (v), and (vi)), Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia (Colombia, 2011, criteria (v) and (vi)), etc. although they all constitute exceptional examples of a cultural landscapes that are unique and representative of a agricultural tradition and expertise, they have not been a major influence in the form and pattern of settlements as in the way it has in the industrial landscape of Ayvalık.