Urban Environment for Sustainable Tourism in small traditional city

Urban Environment for Sustainable Tourism in small traditional city


Faculty of Architecture Yıldız Technical University Besiktas-Istanbul




Abstract: Tourism has become a major international industry, with many countries all over the world relying on the income it produces. Its economic advantages as a major source of finance and employment leads to its active promotion by governments and other institutions, independent of the consequences on the urban environment, ecology and social structure of affected regions.

This paper mainly examines to analyze the problems of the traditional small cities in the context of its development processes and to understand what can be done in order to maintain a sustainable tourism development by evaluating its historical background and current resources. The importance of rehabilitating the traditional pattern of these cities, through which can preserved that its sense of identity and counteract social alienation, is going to be underscored. The city of Bolvadin, which is located on the west of Anatolia is the case of this study.

Key Words: Urban Environment, Sustainable Tourism, urban spaces, Anatolian cities

1 Introduction

The most widely known definition of sustainable development comes from the Brundtland Commission, which defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.“

“Improving the quality of life in a city, including ecological, cultural, political, institutional, social and economic components without leaving a burden on the future generations. A burden which is the result of a reduced natural capital and an excessive local debt. Aim is that the flow principle that is based on equilibrium of material and energy and also financial input/output plays a crucial role in all future decisions upon the development of urban areas.”

Sustainable communities are defined as towns and cities that have taken steps to remain healthy over the long term. Sustainable communities have a strong sense of place. They are places that build on their assets and dare to be innovative. These communities value healthy ecosystems, use resources efficiently, and actively seek to retain and enhance a locally based economy. Unlike traditional community development approaches, sustainability strategies emphasize: the whole community; ecosystem protection; meaningful and broad-based citizen participation; and economic self-reliance.

Sustainable community development is the ability to make development choices which respect the relationship between the three “E’s”-economy, ecology, and equity: Economy – Economic activity should serve the common good, be self-renewing, and build local assets and self- reliance.

Ecology – Human are part of nature, nature has limits, and communities are responsible for protecting and building natural assets. Equity – The opportunity for full participation in all activities, benefits, and decision-making of a society.”

A city is moreover “the place of assembled institutions.” where people come together, bringing with them their understanding of the world and ought to be dynamic without losing its identity as a place. After the industrial revolution, the cities have been subject to poor quality designs, economic dispersion, social differentiation and the invasion of vehicle traffic. So that, the loss of historical and cultural identities, the fragmentation of space through losing its integrity and particularly public spaces that have been worn out irremediably. In this context that focuses on the re-structuring of urban space, arrangement of public spaces, the utilization of historical and the traditional pattern of the city, through which can preserve sense of identity and counteract social alienation, is going to be underscored.

It is strongly believed that developing more sustainable cities is not just about improving the a biotic and biotic aspects of urban life, it is also about the social aspects of city life, that is—among others—about people’s satisfaction, experiences and perceptions of the quality of their everyday environments. In terms of the sustainability of places, managing tourism can have substantial inherent potential to underpin sustainable development and conservation.

WTO defines sustainable tourism as “Tourism which leads to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essentials ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems”and having the following characteristics;

  • minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts;
  • generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities,
  • improves working conditions and access to the industry;
  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances;
  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of
  • the world’s diversity;
  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local
  • people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues;
  • provides access for physically challenged people; and
  • is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence

2 A Spatial Analysis Of Bolvadin

Anatolia, in which many civilizations existed through the history, played an important role as a cultural bridge between east and west. Many trade roads, like Ancient Royal Road, Silk Road,and Roman Period Roads crossed Anatolia. Bolvadin carried the advantages of being located on important trade roads like Ancient King Road and Silk Road during its history

During its history, the Ottoman city differed from the European and pre-Ottoman Anatolian and Balkan cities with its formal aspects:

  • The Ottoman city is an open city which does not include sharp boundaries between urban and rural areas.
  • The city center does not have only one landmark, but fragmented between different landmarks and places.
  • The cemeteries, meadows and “bostans” (market gardens) were not only the extensions of the city, but also provided open space for the people.

The street-pattern of the Ottoman city is irregular and narrow. In the city usually a main road exists, which crosses the city from one end to the other and on which the bazaar, hans and mosques are arranged. This axis was formed in the pre-Ottoman time, during Hellenistic and Byzantium periods (Cerasi 1999: 91). In Ottoman cities, a place or a point, which had superimposed different functions, symbols or representational elements became the center. While none of the Ottoman cities had an administrative center, the local and the governmental officers organized their works from home.

Bolvadin city, located on the inner-western part of Turkey, is one of the oldest settlements in Anatolia and carried the advantage of being located on important trade roads and it had a very active economic life. It also has potentials like fertile agricultural lands, rich underground water sources and it has a spatial pattern which has been shaped by the cultural and social heritage of different civilizations. With its organic street pattern and architectural features, it reflects the characteristics of a traditional Anatolian settlement. Just like many other Anatolian settlements, the open spaces of Bolvadin also became private by walls surrounding them, and a differentiation between internal and external had been created within the city pattern. This internality made it possible to sustain openness behind the walls, without being disturbed by the public life outside.

The city has been demolished because of many earthquakes and wars, and it has been rebuilt throughout its history. The changes that the city went through gave the city its unique character. It has been a center of economic activity for its surrounding settlements, but as its economy remained dependent on agriculture, the city could not retain its privileged position. As a result, today Bolvadin city with all aspects that are peculiar to both urban settlements and rural settlements is a product as a heritage tourism destination.

Fig.1-2 Bolvadin city plan

3 The Problems and Potentials of The City

The changes of population due to socio-economical reasons have changed the city formation through ages and Bolvadin carries the characteristics of a rural settlement as well as an urban settlement. On the other side, the development process of the city displays some kind of special problems of its own. The lack of an efficient planning mechanism and as a result, the misuse of the land can be considered as the most critical ones among these problems.

Hans, Kervansarays, Hamams, Bedestens and Medreses were built during these years and these functions indicate the economic, social and cultural importance of the city. Today we can get information about these structures from literaturere only. Most of them have been demolished because of wars, earthquakes, and lack of awareness of historical conservation. Having these aspects at the same time, Bolvadin carries many problems and potentials within itself.

Fig.3-4 Streets of Bolvadin

One of the most important problems is the pollution of natural water sources of the city such as Lake Eber, Heybeli Thermal Waters, because of industrial wastes. Lake Eber, which is an important economic potential for the city, has been losing its natural habitat. Heybeli Thermal Waters is also important as a potential health tourism center. For now, these two water resources cannot be used efficiently. Bolvadin stems from the expansion of the city towards its agricultural areas and pastures. These natural lands are under the threat of an urbanization caused by wrong planning decisions.

One other problem is that, regardless of cultural and social heritage of different civilizations that shaped the center of the city, the new developments grow in a system which does not consider the organic pattern of the historic center. Thus the city center keeps losing its characteristic spatial properties.

Although the city grows up through its periphery, the historical center still keeps its importance as the heart of the city, with its economic, cultural and social aspects. But this results with the invasion of the center with motorized vehicles. The city is deprived of its pedestrian character Also, the new developments which do not consider the organic city pattern of the historic center. Thus the city loses its characteristic spatial properties.

All these problems are related to the development process of the city and they stem from the lack of an efficient planning policy and management. This results in insufficient use of the potentials of the city to the full extent.

4 Conclusion

As a result of the planning decisions which do not consider the historical, cultural and natural values of the settlement, Bolvadin has begun to lose many of its potentials and values. This means the loss of our cultural heritage for the next generations and leaving a burden on them. Therefore a wide-spread research and an analytical study, which will reveal the needs of the inhabitants and evaluate the potentials of the city is necessary. Addressing the community’s needs and aspirations while raising awareness of the value of the cultural resources should also be an important goal in tourism and conservation activity. This can be achieved by the reuse and building of new forms that are an expression of the community’s cultural, social, and economic values.

Having said that;

  • restoration of local ecosystems: decreased pollution and damage to the health of citizens and the environment, and use of sustainable agricultural systems,
  • creating local economies: revitalization of existing industries, opening of new local business and job development opportunities by using the existing potentials of the city,
  • participation: creation of common ground for all community stakeholders and citizens to plan effective change should be maintained.

The gradual lost in the meaning of local identities in urban spaces, traditional public spaces have been replaced by the ones, which have been defined as “non-place” as their relationships have been simulated, identity has been “created” and historicality has been lost in a continuous perception of now. By protecting the city’s natural and cultural values, promoting the local economy by evaluating the existing potentials and maintaining the participation of the citizens in order to create common interests and benefits, it is possible to maintain a sustainable development for Bolvadin. As well as, tourism can have positive attributes for conservation and sustainable development and it can also increase an appreciation for the historic environment, contributing to greater local and cross-cultural understanding. This is not only crucial for the future of the city itself, but also it can be a chance to build up a model for other similar cities which are facing very similar problems today.


Beer, A.R., Urban green space and sustainability. In: van derVegt, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of a PRO/ECE- Workshop on Sustainable Urban Development: Research and Experiments, November 1993. Dordrecht, The Netherlands,1994 Breheny M., Sustainable Settlement and Urban Form, London, Pion Ltd,1992

Butler, R.W., sustainable Tourism: A state of the art review.Toursim Geographies,vol,1 issue1,1999 Cerası.,M. , Osmanlı Kenti,Osmanlı İmparatorluğunda 18.ve 19.yy da Kent Uygarlığı ve Mimarisi, İstanbul, Y.K.Y.1999 DETR, Planning for the Communities of the Future, London, The Stationery Office,1998 Gehl J., Gemzøe L., Public Spaces Public Life, Arkitektens Forlag,Copenhagen,1996 H.M. Government , A Better Quality of Life, A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the UK, London, The Stationery Office,1999 Porta S. , The Community and Public Spaces: ecological thinking, mobility and social life in the open spaces of the city of the future, in Futures, 31, p.437-456.UN-CSD, 1999 Sachs, I, “Transition Strategies for the 21.Century” Nature and Resources, UNESCO, vol. 28,1992 SERPLAN, A Sustainable Development Strategy for the South East (SERP 500), London, SERPLAN,1998 URBED, “The Model Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood?” Sun Dial, Issue 4, 1997 http://www.e-unwto.org http://www.icrtourism.org/capetown.shtml http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/isd.htm http://www.indigodev.com/Sustain.html


This entry was posted in Vol.4, No1-2/2011. Bookmark the permalink.