In a district of Antalya, 300-year-old button houses struggle to survive, situated in the district of Akseki 150 kilometers from the city. These unique buildings get their names from the wooden parts of the homes that were left outside to be used as scaffolding during their construction. Mostly visited by shutterbugs, button houses attract more and more tourists each year. In addition to the restoration and revival of the houses that challenged centuries, the number of tourists visiting the region has boomed.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Akseki District Governor Murat Beşikçi said they look forward to the discovery of these pieces of art "button houses" by citizens and foreign tourists. Stressing that the geography of the region is essential in order to understand the structure of the button houses, Beşikçi said, "The Toros Mountains present highly challenging conditions for the people living in the region whose mountainous and rocky terrain make the life difficult. However, the Toros Mountains present values with which people can cope with these challenges. One of the most beautiful examples is the button houses."
Pointing out that button houses were mostly constructed as double-story buildings, Beşikçi said about 70-centimeter-wide stones were used in the walls and the main carrier of the building was made of wood. "Only wooden and stone materials were used in the construction of the button houses. Due to limited transportation access, locals preferred to use easy-to-find and practical materials,"Beşikçi said. "The people of Akseki created these houses by using their sharp wit. The construction begins by placing 2-meter-longmaterials vertically and horizontally. Later, by stockpiling, the gaps are filled with stones found in the region in abundance. Cedar and juniper trees which are easy to find in the region are preferred for the construction of the wooden frame. Cedar and juniper wood can last for long periods of time."
Indicating that about 20-to-30 centimeters of wooden materials used in the front façade of the stone walls were left hanging outside the walls, Beşikçi said these parts were called "buttons" by the locals. He stressed that these parts are used as scaffold during the construction.
Noting that there are about 500 button houses in Akseki, Beşikçi said they are registered and protected, noting that many neighborhoods featuring these houses have been declared archaeological sites. Stressing that the restoration works of the button houses have recently sped up, Beşikçi said some of the publicly owned button houses are restored with the allocations provided by Antalya Governorship Investment Monitoring Coordination Directorate and presented to the local and foreign tourists each year. "Privately-owned button houses are restored and brought into tourism along with Culture and Tourism Ministry's incentives and grants in accordance with the owners' demands," Beşikçi said, highlighting that while 50,000 tourists previously visited the region in 10 years, now, along with the restoration of the button houses, this number can be reached annually.
Akseki Mayor Mustafa İsmet Uysal said a conservation plan was arranged for the areas housing the registered buildings under protection. Stressing that the region is an important center for alternative tourism along with its untouched nature and climate in addition to its genuine architecture, Uysal said, "Sea and sun are not enough for Antalya tourism any more. We say, 'We are here' along with our original architecture, streets and stone-paved squares. We have a good team. We want to pass down everything belonging to the past to the next generation without suffering any losses. It is our only objective."Stating that they took inventory of the historical buildings in the region, Uysal said now it was time to restore the button houses. "We, as the municipality, want to restore and unearth the big and old mansions in Akseki as best as we can along with the support provided by the Governor's Office. Highlighting that there are about 300-year-old untouched villages, Uysal said when they are presented to humanity, then Akseki will get its deserved place in the alternative tourism sector .
Mustafa Kavasoğlu, a businessperson in Sarıhancılar Street full of button houses, said when he first arrived in 2010, no one lived in Sarıhancılar Street whose natural texture was not spoiled at all. Noting that he established an ethnography museum in the neighborhood, Kavasoğlu said he opened the museum last year following a nearly 30 years of preparation process. "We established a hotel and restaurant. We are making these investments in order to contribute to the cultural tourism. We need to present another alternative to the tourists aside from sea, sun and sand," Kavasoğlu said. "This neighborhood is a place where cultural tourism can be put forward and implemented in the best way possible. We hosted a few groups of tourists today and the attention gradually increases. I think this place will swarm with people in a couple of years."