Konak Pier, which was built in the 19th century as the French Customs and used as a fish market, wheelhouse, bus station directorate and naval forces facility, is the city’s smiling face today with its shops and restaurants.
Article: Salih Zeki PEKİN/Konak Pier Project Architect
Konak Pier, which was built in the second half of the 19th century, has an interesting history. We can see the many changes the building has gone through from the old documents and pictures.
To understand the current identity of the building we need to journey back to its past. This journey goes all the way back to the capitulation period. During this period when the customs were controlled by the French, they got permission to fill the pier to encounter the docking problem of big ships. This area, where two wooden sheds were built, was used as a storage area at the start of the 1850’s. When needed, the sea is further filled and the storage area is widened. In the end, the area becomes a 40 meter wide, 100 meter long concrete slab.
After a couple of years, two large doors and officers for customs officers are built at the French Customs Office. After 1860, a similar building is constructed at the tip of the filled area. The structure, which receives a second floor at the start of the 1900’s, becomes a wheelhouse for captains. When the area becomes insufficient again, a two-storey stone building is constructed in the middle of the area.
Between the years 1870 and 1875 warehouses and a penthouse is built between the three buildings to protect the products that are stacked outdoors. In its epigraph, it is mentioned that it was built by the permission of the grand vizier and named the Ottoman Customs Building.
Between 1905 and 1913 the sea is filled and the Grand Hall is constructed. Round columns, double UPN profiled columns and steel roof props made in Belgium are used. The sea enters through the concrete channels in the foundation and collects rain water from the columns thus providing the swelling of the channels. Narrow gauged railways were built to make product transportation easier in the grand hall.
Used to be a fish market
At the start of the 1960’s the wheelhouse starts being used by the Turkish Maritime Association. In 1974, the stone building, the wooden storage sheds and a part of the French Customs Building is given to the Naval Forces. Between 1955 and 1960, the municipality reorganizes the southern part of the grand hall as a fish market. The building, which is also known as the fish market, is used as the bus station directorate and a workshop until 1996.
In 1988, it is rented by the municipality and used as a parking garage. The stone framed doors are enlarged to accommodate the vehicles and holes are opened in walls.
Konak Pier, although at a strategic location at the center of the city before the renovations, cannot be an integral part of social city life. There are two basic reasons for this; first of all, it is at the very end of Kordon- a very important trade and social center and serves a very different purpose and secondly, the relocation of the port. The building suffers extreme erosion from lack of maintenance and care.
The building and its vicinity is finally put under protection in 1994.
We started the restoration project works for Konak Pier in 1995. In 1997, our project was approved by the Preservation Board. The construction of the customs storages that were built between 1850 and 1910 were done according to their originals and in parts. First, the French Customs Building was fixed in 1998. Actually, the building was saved as it was about to collapse
The steel carrier structure had eroded and the stone parquet floor of the building that was constructed on filled water was 70 meters below sea level. There were serious cracks on the rubble stone accumulation walls and the roof structure made from galvanized sheet iron and Marseilles tiles was completely decayed. We set out to strengthen its structure before we could apply makeup to Izmir’s pretty girl.
First we started on working on strengthening the foundations of the building. The base of the building was reconstructed with reinforced concrete with at least 25 centimeters thick. Alloyed reinforced concrete was used to shield the base from sea water and insulation was applied to the entire area. The rubble stone walls were fixed and straightened. Concrete was injected to cracks on the walls and metal brackets were used to rejuvenate them.
The roof structure was completely changed. The metal surfaces of the steel columns and props were rid of rust, oil and salt by spraying thin sand mixed with air. The parts were then painted with special primer paint, 4 to 6 hours after the meticulous cleaning process.
Eight days after this process the iron oxide was again covered with a special primer and almost galvanized, lengthening the lifespan of the steel construction.
Because the whole building was going to be acclimatized, the roof was constructed with heat insulated aluminum sandwich panels and the wooden roof structure was covered with corrugated tiles. Colored laminated heat glass was used instead of eroded glass in lamps. After the basalt stone parquets were taken out, they were cut into 15 centimeter plaques and readied to be used as floor furnishings. The characteristics of the outer areas were preserved by taking out the existing parquets and rearranging them. Natural elements were used as wall coverings and furnishings.
The Konak Pier Project made sure that all the original architectural and constructive elements were preserved while presenting them to public use. These characteristics were fixed and strengthened without harming them. We were also careful in using simple and neutral materials when adding something new to the building.
The areas used by the Naval Force were abandoned by July 2010 and restoration in these areas will begin in the near future.
The Konak Pier project was financed by a private sector investor cold İZMER. I believe that the new venue we constructed is in harmony with the building’s construction values. My colleagues and I worked very hard on the Konak Pier Project and we are proud of what we have accomplished. The people of Izmir like and appreciate Konak Pier and that’s what’s important.
The establishment of Konak Pier was a tough process because of the hardships we had to endure during the project. But nevertheless, the pretty girl of Izmir glows today with its new facelift, shops, cafes and restaurants.