Awareness of Cultural Values ​​and Recreational Walking: A Case Study in Izmir, Turkey



recreational walking, walkability, historical area




The rapid urbanization has led to the deterioration of traditional urban fabric and resulted in the loss of historical identity. Due to the dominance of contemporary architecture and modern urban practices, traditional urban fabric is barely perceptible, and historical buildings are less noticeable. Both new development areas and historical city centers lack human-scale design. With the increase in traffic -and its negative consequences regarding accessibility and pedestrian circulation-, and the change in the forms and functions of historical buildings, historical areas are losing their appeal to pedestrians. For this reason, although the importance of historical buildings for recreational walking is emphasized in the literature, current navigation tools and interfaces still offer the shortest routes. The number of navigation tools and interfaces that enable historical buildings to be more noticed and appreciated is very limited.

This research aims to explore the relationship between pedestrian density, recreational walkability, and awareness of historical structures in the historical city center.

The study is conducted in Konak, Izmir, which has a higher concentration of Early Republican Period architectural structures.  The cultural heritage values in Konak district are facing the challenges brought by contemporary urban life. The commercial uses on the first floors altered the form and function of the modern architectural heritage. Especially the windows and signs at pedestrians’ eye level reduce the legibility of these buildings. In this respect, while some buildings in this area have been better protected against these changes, some have lost their formal and functional originality. This study compares the pedestrian density and recreational walkability around such buildings that have been well-preserved and those that have not.

The methodology employs a mixed-methodology approach, combining perception-based and measurement-based methods. The study consists of three main components: literature review, fieldwork, and desk-based analysis. Additionally, the methodology comprises three stages: (1) systematic selection of buildings that can be considered as modern architectural heritage and preserved at different levels, and the implementation of surveys to assess awareness for each building; (2) systematic identification of factors influencing recreational walking and the creation of walkability maps via Geographic Information System (GIS) around each building which were selected in the first step; (3) pedestrian counting in front of each building which was selected in the first step. The analyses focus on three issues: 1) How the protection levels of the selected buildings impact noticeability and recognition; 2) How recreational walkability values vary around the historical buildings that are noticeable and protected at different levels; and 3) Is there a difference in the number of pedestrians around the historical buildings that are noticeable and protected at different levels? Thus, this study discusses whether urban design qualities in the immediate vicinity of historical buildings can support recreational walking more and whether the pedestrian density can be increased in the vicinity of historical buildings via better design.

The study is associated with the doctoral thesis titled "A New Methodology for Walkability Maps for Unnoticed Historical Cultural Values: İzmir Case" at Dokuz Eylül University, Institute of Natural and Applied Sciences. It will present the literature review, methodology, and preliminary results derived from the field study conducted for the doctoral thesis.