Socio-economic Spatials: Interlinking Buldan Vernacular Settlements and Weaving Craftsmanship

Title: Socio-economic Spatials: Interlinking Buldan Vernacular Settlements and Weaving Craftsmanship

Theme: Socio-economic Management and Interlinking the Tangible and Intangible Heritage

Ms. Şizen Türkal (Istanbul, Turkey)

M.Sc Student in Restoration at Istanbul Technical Uni., Turkey

HeritageForAll International Internship Program 2021

“Musealization of Cultural Identity”


The weaving craft-based traditions , which had been generated around 1500 years ago, is in danger of gradually disappearing today. The article aims to clarify the significance of these traditions and how the site conservation safeguarding it on the long-term. Both tangible and intangible heritage are two faces of one coin that faces currently abandonment. Thus, an immediate action must be taken.


Buldan is a known historical town by its vernacular settlements and textiles. This textiles are an intangible cultural heritage investing the local patterns. The weaving craft has also been contributed shaping the architecture since workshops had been founded inside these settlements or in its small attachments. Unfortunately, both tangible and intangible heritages are currently in danger since local people has started to leave their settlements immigrating to the modern concrete constructions. In addition, as a result of modernization, the traditional techniques and methods of weaving craft is unfortunately vanished. Respectively, the site management faces a group of social and economic obstacles causing the loss of tangible form and intangible heritage expression, for instance, to reuse or rehabilitate adaptively the vernacular settlements in regard with the modern living conditions and at the same time, to preserve the traditional craftsmanship “Weaving” against industrialization technologies.

Historical Background

Buldan town is located in Denizli province where lies in the inner Aegean, surrounded by the counties of Güney and Sarayköy. According to the archaeological researches, that have been taken place in Buldan, it has been asserted that the vernacular settlements there were dated back to the Neolithic Age. It has been started in the town’s core and then, by the immigration waves of Yenicekent / Tripolis vicinity, delivered 14 kilometers to the eastern side of this core. Moreover, it has been clarified that in the Hellenistic period, the district was originally called “Tripolis” and formed jointly along with Phrygia, Caria, and Lydia regions. Although the district was occupied and included by Pergamon Kingdom (190 B.C.), it was connected to the Roman empire (133 B.C.). (Duman, 2013)

Figure 1: Tripolis, Buldan (Source: Denizli (n.d.). Tripolis Antik Kenti Yapılar. [accessed at 15 July 2021])

During the Turkish conquest to Anatolia (at the beginning of the 13th century), the district has been frequently reformulated by the eastern Romans and the Turks. In 1304-1306, Turkish domination began with the Germiyanoğulları princedom dominating the region. (Duman, 2013) Then, with the decree of Germiyanoğlu II Yakup Bey, Buldan and its surroundings were put under the administration of the Ottoman caliphate. (Avralıoğlu, 1997)

While the Turks in the region have lived in Çarşamba, the frequent attacks of immigrants have been started to the current location of Buldan. In the mid-16th century, they have settled in the districts where are called today by Güroluk, Düzalan, and Çaybaşı. On the other hand, those who settled in Buldan, where was a forest area at that time, built a group of settlements with earthen roofs. (Şen, 1970)

According to the “Salnames” events, which were annually published by the Ottoman caliphate during its last period, Buldan consisted of 18 districts in the 19th century. There were 1125 houses, the governmental offices, telegraph and postal buildings, and public buildings such as banks. (Avralıoğlu, 1997) These information have been indicated that Buldan was a developed town. With the Ottoman occupation (after the First World War), Buldan was occupied by Greek troops (July 1920). After two years and two months occupation, on 4 September 1922, Buldan becomes independent. (Avralıoğlu, 1997) It is still celebrated today as liberation day.

With the republic proclamation, the settlements, in the mountainous region, were began to expand towards the flatter part due to the difficulties experienced in the delivery of municipal services.

Figure 2: Buldan in 1930s (source: Foto Akın)

Weaving Craftsmanship Development in Buldan

The excavation projects in Buldan asserted that the weaving craftsmanship has been started in 1500 – 1600 years ago. These projects discovered a weaving dye workshop, warehouses – which were used as a factory of the dried fruit -, earthen weights which the yarn balls and the weaving looms were wrapped on.

Turks, who came to the region from central Asia, continued preserving the existing weaving traditions in Buldan. After the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, Buldan became the source of sultanic textiles such as shawls and shirts that were woven for the sultans.(Buldan Municipality)

In 1714 by the Sultanic edict, there are some technical standards were introduced to the weaving craft especially in relation to the quality and lengths of the woven products. Also, this Sultanic edict was stated that penalties would be imposed for those who did not comply. The traditional weaving craft has been done on primitive looms in Buldan until 1779 when new looms were brought weaving the headscarves, loincloths, and sheets, as well as Buldan Cloth. In 1890, there were five stores, 152 shops, five inns, and a Turkish bath in Buldan. Weaving was produced at home and it was marketed in a covered area surrounded by shops. (Avralıoğlu, 1997).

The the 19th century industrialization process has been also affected the weaving craft. When Europe started the mass production, Anatolia fell due to this matter that in 1872, the foreign cloth was, for the first time, imported to Denizli. Unfortunately, the weaving craft in Buldan was gradually decreased towards vanishing due to e.g. the capitulations, the Balkan wars, the World War I, as well as the great weaving craftsmen participated in these wars. With the victory of the Independence War, the capitulations were abolished, and the domestic producers were encouraged increasing the import taxies. Consequently, the weaving craft was gradually revived again in Buldan and the weaving craftsmen established their first corporate in 1937 to facilitate the supply of raw materials. (Avralıoğlu, 1997)

Since the 1950s, the motorized weaving looms have been used in the region. (Buldan Municipality) The advent of motorized looms has been also expanded the product scale that in addition to productions of loincloth, tablecloth, and linen, towel has also been produced. (Erdoğan, 1996) Mechanization has dealt a great blow to the weaving industry especially the handicrafts, and the household workshops that they started over time to use the pit looms instead of using the handlooms. Thus, motorized looms are mostly used today (Ertuğrul & Utkun, 2009) In 2009, there were 3000 motorized looms, 30 handlooms, 1250 processing machines in the city center. The number of handlooms was gradually lessened from 1900 ones in 1969 A.C., 432 ones in 1975 A.C. 40 or 50 ones in the mid-2000s, to 4 or 5 handlooms nowadays. (Yılmaz, 2006)

Figure 3: A-Pit Looms; B-Hand Looms; C-Motorized Looms (Ertuğrul & Utkun, 2009)

Buldan Cloth

Ibn Battuta and Evliya Çelebi praised, in their travel books, the fabrics found in the region. Evliya Çelebi referred to this cloth as “Bogasi” and mentioned that the main source of income of the people is “white cloth”. Friedrich Sarre, in his travel book to Asia Minor, indicated that everyone in Buldan works the weaving craft, and Buldan textiles are very popular everywhere. Buldan textile is known for its unique, simple, and robust weaving technique called “crepe bükümcük (crepe)” that was appreciated due to its twisting warp or filling yarns. It gets its original texture after washing with hot water and soap. The structure of the fabric, which takes a wrinkled appearance after drying, provides heat insulation as it provides space and does not stick to the body. This weaving technique, which can be applied with all kinds of materials such as wool, linen, cotton, and silk, was preferred by the palace and by the high-income families although it is very expensive. The public people used silk by adding threads such as linen and cotton. The hoop technique is also used in Buldan weaving craft. Hoop work (Suzen) is the embroidery of traditional motifs and fringes with colored threads on a piece of fabric stretched on a hoop. The unique weaving technique of Buldan, which was mentioned with different names “Ak Alemli Cloth” and “Bükülü Cloth”, is known currently as “Buldan Cloth.(Uğurlu & Uğurlu, 2006)

Figure 4: Buldan Cloth, Bürümcük (Uğurlu & Uğurlu, 2006)

Traditional Architecture of Buldan

Buldan vernacular settlements are positioned on the hillside facing the sunrise and not blocking each other’s view. Due to problems, e.g. transportation and infrastructure, the settlements were shifted to the flat area over time. Although the buildings are mostly dated to the 19th century, some mosques are dated to the 17th century.

Figure 5: Buldan (Source: ©author, 2021)

The main layout of vernacular Turkish settlement is determined by the sofa and the layout of the rooms according to the sofa. The sofa is a common area (i.e. the courtyard) in the house. In the two-story settlements, the sofa and rooms are on the second floor, while the first floor is used as a warehouse, barn, and workshop. Wet areas such as toilets and kitchens are mostly solved outside the house as a separate unit in the garden.

The houses are divided into four groups according to the location of the sofa (Eldem, 1968):

  • without a hall
  • with an external hall
  • with an internal hall
  • with a central hall

In 2001-2003, there are around 1481 buildings that were documented within the scope of the Buldan (Denizli) pilot region project of the Turkish Cultural Inventory Project, as well as the Oral History Documentation Project. Although there are settlements with an external, internal and the central sofa in the region, most of them comply with the plan type with an external sofa, according to the inventory study.

Figure 6: A Traditional House with outer Sofa (Source: ©author, 2021)

The existence of the weaving craftsmanship as a source of livelihood in Buldan was majorly implemented at the ground floor as a workshop. In some houses, the weaving workshop is set up as a separate unit in the garden. In addition, most of Buldan settlements also have a pigmentation pool that there is one remained old fountain of the yarn dyeing process.

With replacing the wooden weaving looms by motorized looms, the home workshops have been deteriorated over time, and also, the production has been shifted out of traditional techniques. There were some attempts that to insert the large-sized motorized benches inside these vernacular settlements where were gradually damaged due to the cutting floors and the impact of vibration. (Batur et. al., 2003)

Figure 7: Motorized Loom in the Traditional House (Source: ©author, 2021)

Buldan settlements are mostly built as first-floor masonry stone and second-floor wooden carcass. Another feature of settlements, with wide eaves, is chimneys. These chimneys, where the bricks overflow and form a step, are called “the necklace of houses”. Woodworking is also prominent in the settlements, e.g. the wooden decorations on ceilings and cabinets. In 2001, the historical settlements of Buldan were taken under the protection of law., but half of these settlements are not currently used. The settlements were gradually moved towards the east of the city, and people started also to leave it. The settlements have been abandoned over time due to the costly conservation process, uncomfortable regarding the modern requirements, and the infrastructure and transportation are insufficient. Although the rehabilitation projects of the streets have increased in recent years, the settlements have been physically repaired but they remain empty today.

Figure 8: Dokuma Pazarı Street, street rehabilitation project (Source: ©author, 2021)

Interlinking Buldan Vernacular Settlements and Weaving Craftsmanship

Weaving craft in Buldan goes back about 1500 years and has survived to the present day. Weaving craft in Buldan was not only a commercial business but also a part of life. Selahattin Kaçanoğlu, who has weaved in Buldan for 60 years, mentions in an interview:

He was born into the weaving profession and started doing this craft with being eight years old. There are many craftsmanship’s lines in weaving craft, i.e. winding cotton and untying thread. In this family-run business, children were wrapping the corn, while the adults were also weaving. Unfortunately, there are very few people who are weaving with traditional methods today. Most of the production is outsourced and can’t produce added-value. Mechanization is about to destroy the art approach of the weaving craft.

Figure 9: A Craftsman is weaving with handloom (Source: ©author, 2021)

Buldan is an important city with its tangible and intangible cultural heritage intertwined. The abandonment of traditional architectural structures has affected weaving, and the machines that are used together with the changing technology have transformed the architectural structures. Today, both values are in danger of being lost. It is important to protect the cultural heritage that is owned. In addition to their economic values, they give the public people the sense of the place. Restoring the structures alone is not enough, the centuries-old lifestyle must also be preserved.


The first step of safeguarding intangible and tangible heritage is documenting. There have been studies over 20 years in Buldan, documenting the techniques that have been used and fabrics that have been produced. Also, traditional houses had been documented with the project “Survey of the Urban Cultural Heritage in the Buldan (Denizli) Pilot Region”. As a second step of preserving, in 2001 historical houses were protected by law. But today, half of the settlements are abandoned, and the home workshops were broken. So, the author recommends:

  • To support financially the families that engage and sustain in the weaving craft in order to maintain this tradition;
  • The current masters program should be encouraged to train new generations;
  • R&D studies should be carried out to adapt the traditional weaving craftsmanship to the current fashion norms.
  • Cultural tourism should be encouraged, but tourism should not harm the existing texture and lifestyle.


  • Avralıoğlu, O. Z. (1997). Buldan ve Yöresinin Tarihçesi, Önder Matbaacılık, Ankara
  • Batur, A., Ağır, A., Köşklük, N. ve Öngül, Z. (2003). TÜBA-TÜKSEK Buldan (Denizli) Kentsel Kültür Varlıkları Envanter Çalışması 2002 Yılı  Raporu, Türkiye Bilimler Akademisi – Türkiye Kültür Envanteri, (TÜBA-TÜKSEK) Pilot Bölge Çalışmaları, 1/2,  TÜBA-T.C. Kültür Bakanlığı Yayını, İstanbul.
  • Batur, A., Ağır, A. (2004). Buldan (Denizli) Kentsel Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri. TÜBA Kültür Envanteri Dergisi 3, 7-29.
  • Duman, D. (2013). Son Arkeolojik Araştırmalar ve Yeni Bulgular Işığında Tripolis Ad Maeandrum, (Tripolis Ad Maeandrum: The Latest Archaeological Research Results and New Finds), CEDRUS I, 179-200.
  • Eldem, S. H. (1968). Türk Evi Plan Tipleri. İTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Baskı Atölyesi. İstanbul.
  • Erdoğan Z. (1996) Buldan Dokumacılığı ve İlçede Üretilen Düz Dokumaların Bazı Özellikleri Üzerinde bir Araştırma, Doktora Tezi, Ankara Üniversitesi Fen Bilimleri Enstitüsü. Ankara.
  • Ertuğrul İ., Utkun E. (2009) Buldan Tekstil Sanayiinin Gelişimi ve Envanter Araştırması, Buldan: Ekin Yayınevi.
  • Şen, İ. (1970). Yeşil Buldan, Yeniyıl Matbaası, Denizli.
  • Uğurlu, A., Uğurlu, S. (2006). Yörenin Kültürel Kimliği Olarak Buldan Bezi, Buldan Sempozyumu Bildirileri, 275-280.
  • Yılmaz, S. (2006). Tekstil Uygarlığı ve Buldan, Buldan Sempozyumu Bildirileri, 261-273.
  • Buldan Muncipality (n.d.). [accessed at 15 July 2021]

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