Phokaia is a small seashore city along the Aegean Coast in Turkey; on the north of the Mediterranean Sea and east of the Greek Islands. During the ancient times, it was one of the 12 Ionian cities of the Western Anatolia. Findings of old ceramic pieces from an ancient site, directed by Professor Doctor Ömer Özyiğit, confirms that Phokaia’s history goes all the way back 3000 BC. According to the archeological studies, the settlement strata in the area belong to : the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Genoese and Ottoman periods.
Phokaia city name-inspired from the sea lions “fok” in the area-used during the Ionian times. It is also the english version of the city known as “Foça” today.
Phokaia is not only known as the preserved area for the Mediterranean monk seals which are in danger of extinction, the outdoor fish restaurants and beautiful beaches, it is also greatly appreciated for its Mediterranean Style old stone houses: especially the ones which are credited with a seal of registry for their historical and cultural value. Under the “the restoration” efforts, these old homes are revived by a mix of reconstruction, restitution and rehabilitation methods.
The same type of Mediterranean style homes can also be found in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The architectural details and elements exhibit motifs that are borrowed from the Roman ornamentations, Greek forms and figures and in some cases, it also includes Turkish style oriels-cumba-( a type of bay window). Stone and woodwork constitute the main aesthetic elements of the Mediterranean Style. The local tuff stones- a type of limestone- are mostly used to restore these old structures. Despite the shortage of Phokaia stones due to its location accessibility, renovation activities still continue today in the center of the city. Besides its aesthetic value, the natural stones possess isolation and insulation properties. They keep homes cool in the summer and shield the warm air in during the mild winters. Its colors and textures are also harmonized with its natural surroundings when used for exteriors. Light yellows, soft grays and reds, tones of browns blend in well with its natural habitation.
Restoration architects, local officials and residents form a great alliance here to face and overcome the bureaucratic, political and management issues of the restoration projects. Over the long term, they all share the same vision: to establish Phokaia as a example and a destination for all to witness how to restore cultural heritage. To preserve and share the town’s cultural heritage by building centers around the restored stone house neighborhoods, beautifying these public areas with nice lighting, outdoor sculptures and small flower gardens are some of the goals and proposals that are recently presented -during this year’s Phokaia art, culture and fishing festival- by the city’s restoration architect, Ercüment Kuyumcu. So far, 30 houses have been restored here; 10 by Kuyumcu and “more restoration projects are in the plans” he says. He is very dedicated to the process of conserving, reconstructing, restoring and rebuilding the past cultural weave or with his own words “street texture.” One of his suggestions is dressing up the concrete buildings with stones and partially eliminate the ordinary appearance. Phokaia is indeed a unique location to preserve and highlight the mastery of the ancient stone carving and building techniques which is also the city’s pivatol cultural heritage.