The Panorama

Students: Veronika Poier and Aliza Sovani


Panoramic views of the historic peninsula as seen from the Golden Horn and Bosporus and the medieval Galata Tower are iconic to Istanbul. Throughout time panoramas were consistently depicted by orientalists and locals in a variety of mediums from lithograph to sketch to photograph, among others. Well-known authors include Melling, Dunn, and Le Corbusier. Very often these panoramas were extremely large and organized in a 360-degree circle where one was meant to view it from within. This research study aims to investigate the panorama in 20th-century Istanbul. As part of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, this research explores how the digital could offer new possibilities in the study of the panorama.


The team comprises a historian and a designer and therefore the investigation offers a holistic viewpoint as influenced by a varied skillset. The spatialization of research is inherent to Digital Humanities and this quality exists in the aforementioned project through a dynamic sequence of layers. Digital Humanities exists as a non-prescriptive layering tool which allows the authors of the research to present a case without being limited to text-only, page-size or solely appendices for visual content. As an effect, viewers are offered a distinct freedom in exploration.

The investigation comprises four broad layers. These layers are strategically connected through hyperlinks:
The Panorama and its Relationship to Mapping: (collaboration with Nil Tuzcu, MIT)
The Panorama:
The Analysis of the Panorama:
The Visual Exhibit of Source Material and Findings:


We worked with Nil Tuzcu to achieve this layer of our project. The platform Tuzcu is developing at MIT allowed us to categorize our selected panoramas, overlay historical maps, and hyperlink to our tumblr account, which showcased the panoramas and textual analyses. We categorized the panoramas by year, medium, and scope. The selection of these categories followed a long thought-process as to how one could rethink the organization of panoramas since the digital offers increased opportunity for visual representation. One is meant to return to this screen throughout their exploration of our project and continually explore the loop relationship between the textual analysis, historical maps, panoramas, and exhibit.


The panoramas layer was the greatest technical challenge in our project. As one can imagine, these panoramas were often extremely large in reality and showcasing them adequately was important. Horizontal scrolling and the ability to zoom were two features that were a must for us and much time was spent on finding existing web-templates that would allow this. Tumblr offered limited free options but we were able to find one that only required slight HTML modification.

All of the selected panoramas find themselves on the homepage of the tumblr account and one can scroll through them horizontally. The comparative aspect is useful for our research project since each panorama has the same sites highlighted. One can find the full source description and related article hyperlinks from our research directly under each panorama. The top left corner of each panorama directs one to a new page that isolates that individual image Clicking on the actual panorama itself opens up an in-window pop up that gives the viewer a more zoomed-in view of the image and further horizontal scrolling. Finally, all of the hyperlinks on the website were formatted to ‘open link in new window.’ This was a conscious decision so as to allow multiple tabs to be open at once and increased facility to go back and forth between pages and project layers with ease.


The analytical dimension to our project finds itself within the hyperlinks on the Istanbul Panoramas tumblr account. The research is divided into three main themes: Tourism, Infrastructure, and Politics. Links to these main categories are in the sidebar of the webpage. Within these links and below each panorama are links to more specific articles such as the story of the Czech Traveller, Le Corbusier, Galata Bridge, Eminönü and Sirkeci. These pages take the form of a traditional research study but are presented in an innovative way that does not prescribe a specific order of inquiry. These texts also offer direct links to other related articles and to specific visual materials in the exhibit.