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Earthquake Protection of Cultural Heritage

Protection of cultural heritage against the effects of earthquakes is an interdisciplinary undertaking where the knowledge, skills and experience of earthquake and structural engineers assisted by architects, art historians and material scientists are required. Structural health monitoring, system identification, theoretical and experimental assessment of structural performance and design, testing and implementation of retrofit interventions represent the main steps of any modern earthquake protection methodology for the structural conservation of cultural heritage.

Current State

Our activities in this field have started with a project on the earthquake vulnerability assessment of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which incorporated experimental and analytical studies. We worked on Suleymaniye, Mihrimah Sultan, Sultanahmet and Fatih mosques, Hagia Eirini, Egyptian Obelisk and Sts Sergius and Bacchus, which with many historical monuments alike in Istanbul are under continuous earthquake threat. We conducted earthquake performance assessment investigations for Seljuk era monuments in Konya, Turkey and for Timurid dynasty tombs and mosques (Tilla-Kari masjid) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
We utilize following means actively for the assessment of earthquake performance of historical monuments: ambient vibration experiments; non-destructive and destructive in-situ shear testing for the determination of material properties; linear and non-linear 2- and 3-dimensional finite element analyses; sub-surface and structural member investigations by geophysical methods with the assistance from the Department of Geophysics of KOERI and of private firms. To calibrate analytical procedures and to record actual dynamic response we installed permanent strong ground motion instrumentation system on Hagia Sophia Museum and Suleymaniye Mosque in 1991 and in 1994 respectively, and conducted system identification investigations.

On the micro level, we are in preliminary stages of conducting laboratory tests and numerical analyses to understand the behavior of masonry (to model crack initiation, distribution, propagation as well as stress distribution and behavior after maximum strength) and to develop reliable material-geometry models. For laboratory testing we have access to the structural testing laboratory of the Department of Civil Engineering of Boğaziçi University. We provided assistance to the National Technical University of Athens in their studies on determination of characteristics and production of the original mortar used in the construction of Hagia Sophia.

Protection and earthquake stabilization of artifacts on display in the museums or in storage is an area where the members of the department are involved in the form of promoting the importance of the subject in the professional circles (ministries, museums etc), giving lectures and advising projects. ( )))

For post-earthquake stabilization and rapid pre-earthquake performance improvement of vulnerable historical structures, the current applications call for the use of innovative technologies, such as  high strength carbon reinforcements, seismic isolation by carbon fiber reinforced elastomeric bearings, as it has been demonstrated by recent applications in Europe especially in Assissi. This is an area where we plan to work more both theoretically and experimentally


Sungay B. (2012). Müzeler için Afet ve Acil Durum Planı Kılavuzu (Disaster and Emergency Planning Guide For Museums), Graduation Thesis for M.Sc. Non-thesis Graduate Program on Disaster Management, Istanbul Teknik Üniversitesi, Istanbul. 

Sungay B., Erturk, N., Çaktı, C., Erdik, M., Podany, J. (2010). Recent Efforts in İstanbul To Protect Museum Collections From Damage Due to Earthquakes, C. Rozeik, A. Roy, D. Saunders (Editors), “Conservation and The Eastern Mediterranian: Contributions To The İstanbul Congress 20-24 September 2010”; pp. 1-5., The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, published by IIC, U.K., ISBN 0-9548169-3-5.

Erdik M., Durukal, E., Ertürk, N., Sungay, B. (2010). Earthquake Risk Mitigation in Istanbul Museums, Natural Hazards 53 (2010), 97-108 [published online first DOI 10.1007/s11069-009-9411-2].

Sungay, B., Erturk, N. (2005). İstanbul Müzeleri’nde Depreme Karşı Yapısal Olmayan Risklerin Belirlenmesi, 7. Müzecilik Semineri Bildiri Kitabı. Harbiye Askeri Müzesi.

Sungay, B., Erturk, N. (2005). Seismic Conservation Of Cultural Treasures In The Museums of Istanbul, in Chapter V, in Know Risk. ed. by T. Jeggle, UN/ISDR, pub. by Tudor Rose for and on behalf of the United Nations.

Sungay, B., Erturk, N. (2004). Seismic Conservation Of Historical and Cultural Treasures Of A World City: Sizing The Need And Formulating An Action Plan In The Museums of Istanbul, Turkey, Global Symposium for Hazard Risk Reduction – Lessons Learned From The Applied Research Grants for Disaster Risk Reduction Program - Working Papers. Washington, DC: The World Bank – ProVention Consortium.

Erdik M., E. Durukal, H. Keypour (2003). Techniques and Materials for the Earthquake Protection of Monuments, Proceedings: Innovative Technologies and Materials for the Conservation of Monuments, EU 5th Framework Programme, Advanced Study Course, Athens 8-20 December, 2003.

Durukal E, Cimilli S, Erdik M (2003). Dynamic response of two historical monuments in Istanbul deduced from the recordings of Kocaeli and Duzce earthquakes, Bulletin of Seismological Society of America, 93 (2): 694-712.

Durukal E., M. Erdik (2003). Proteggere Hagia Sophia dai terremoti: un sfida per l’ingegneria e la conservaziona, Earthquake Protection of Hagia Sophia: A challenge for engineering and conservation. Disegnare Idee Immagini, Anno XIV, n. 26, Luglio 2003, pp 8-19. 2003.

Keypour H. (2001), Comprehensive Nonlinear Dynamic Analysis of Hagia Sophia, PhD Thesis, Bogazici University.

Durukal, E., M.Erdik and S.Cimilli (2001), Strong Motion Networks: A Tool for the Assessment of Earthquake Response of Historical Monuments, in Strong Motion Instrumentation for Civil Engineering Structures, M.Erdik et al., Kluwer.
Kaya M (1999), Determination of Dynamic Characteristics of Suleymaniye Mosque, MSc. Thesis, Bogazici University, Istanbul.

Sayin M.K. (1999), Earthquake Performance of Sultan Ahmet Mosque, MSc. Thesis, Bogazici University, Istanbul.

Sayin G. (1999), Earthquake Performance of Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, MSc. Thesis, Bogazici University, Istanbul.

Durukal E., A. Çakmak, O. Yüzügüllü and M. Erdik (1998). Assessment of the Earthquake Performance of Hagia Sophia, in PACT 56 1998 Proceedings -Compatible Materials for the Protection of European Cultural Heritage, pp. 49-57, 1998.

Durukal E., Ö. Yüzügüllü ve K. Beyen (1998).  ‘’Non-destructive testing techniques of structural materials in historical structures’’, PACT 55 1998 Proceedings -Compatible Materials for the Protection of European Cultural Heritage, Technical Chamber of Greece, Athens,  221-229, 1998.

Yuzugullu O., E. Durukal (1997). Effects of the Train Traffic on the Kucuk AyaSofya Mosque in Istanbul, Proceedings of the Studies in Ancient Structures Conference, July 14-18, 1997, Istanbul, Turkey, Yildiz University Publications.

Erdik M., E. Durukal (1996). Use of Strong Motion Data for the Assessment of the Earthquake Response of Historical Monuments, Proceedings of the 11th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Acapulco, Mexico, June 23-28 1996.

Erdik, M., H. Keypour (1995), Measures For The Stabilization And Earthquake Resistant Strengthening Of The Tillya-Kari Mosque, Samarkand,  in Historic Structures in Central Asia, J.Schwarts, Bauhaus-Universitat Weimar, Weimar, Germany

Durukal E., M. Erdik (1994). Comparison of System Identification Techniques: A Case Study for Hagia Sophia, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Earthquake Resistant Construction and Design, 15-17 June 1994, Berlin, 993-1000.

Kadakal U., E. Durukal, M. Erdik (1994).  Application of the Rocking Response of the Egyptian Obelisk in Istanbul to the Probabilistic Estimate of the Peak Earthquake Accelerations Experienced in the Region, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Earthquake Resistant Construction and Design, 15-17 June 1994, Berlin, 527-534. Selahiye A. (1994), A Study on the Identification of Natural Vibration Frequencies of the Suleymaniye Mosque,



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