Henri Prost

Turkey Casablanca Hagia Sophia
Henri Prost
Born(1874-02-25)February 25, 1874
DiedJuly 16, 1959(1959-07-16) (aged 85)
Alma materÉcole Spéciale d'Architecture and École des Beaux-Arts
PracticeArchitect and urban planner
ProjectsRedevelopment of Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh, Meknes, Rabat, and Istanbul

Henri Prost (February 25, 1874 – July 16, 1959) was a French architect and urban planner. He was noted in particularly for his work in Morocco and Turkey, where he created a number of comprehensive city plans for Casablanca,[1] Fes, Marrakesh, Meknes, Rabat,[2] and Istanbul, including transportation infrastructure and avenues with buildings, plazas, squares, promenades and parks.[3]

Early years

Born in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, Henri Prost studied architecture at the École Spéciale d'Architecture and at the École des Beaux-Arts. Among his teachers was Marcel Lambert, who surveyed the Acropolis in Athens.[4] In 1902, he was awarded prestigious Prix de Rome scholarship and was able to travel in Italy and Europe to study the architectural landmarks.


In 1913, Hubert Lyautey, the military governor of the French Morocco invited Prost to work on development of major Moroccan cities: Fes, Marrakesh, Meknes, Rabat and Casablanca. Prost stayed in Morocco for a decade, and soon Casablanca was lauded as a success story of an application of the principles of urbanism.


Back to France, Prost worked in 1923-1924 as a regional planner, developing a series of comprehensive urban plans for Côte Varoise in Western French Riviera. In 1932, he was invited to direct the regional urban studies of the Paris metropolitan area. The Plan d'Aménagement de la Région Parisienne that was developed under his tutelage was approved in 1939.

Istanbul's redevelopment

Starting from 1924, Prost was consulting the government of Turkey on an irregular basis. In 1936, Prost was invited to Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to develop a grand plan of Istanbul's redevelopment, and he stayed there for fifteen years.[5] He became the head of the city's Planning Office and authored the master-plan of its architectural future. Modernization and conservation were laid at its core.[6] Later in 1947, Prost explained his approach in such words:

The modernization of Istanbul can be compared to a chirurgical operation of the most delicate nature. It is not about creating a New City on a virgin land, but directing an Ancient Capital, in the process of complete social change, towards a Future, through which the mechanism and probably the redistribution of wealth will transform the conditions of existence. This City lives with an incredible activity. To realize the main axes of circulation without harming the commercial and industrial development, without stopping the construction of new settlements is an imperious economic and social necessity; however to conserve and protect the incomparable landscape, dominated by glorious edifices, is another necessity as imperious as the former.[6]

After deciding to make drastic cuts through the network of historic Istanbul's neighborhoods with transportation corridors, broad avenues and pedestrian promenades, parks and monumental squares, Prost also started to work on preserving the remaining major historical monuments of Istanbul, including Roman-Byzantine, as well as Ottoman landmarks, and making them accessible to public.[7] After his plea, Atatürk approved the transformation of Hagia Sophia, which served as the Grand Mosque of Istanbul, into a museum.

However, after all was said and done, it turned out that Prost's master-plan imposed a heavy interventionist burden on historical structure of the city. It was criticized by Le Corbusier in 1948, who previously wrote a letter to Atatürk, advising him to conserve the city without even disturbing its historic dust.[6] Among Prost's decisions considered controversial today, the demolition of the historic Taksim Military Barracks can be cited.[8]


Henri Prost along with Tony Garnier, Léon Jausseley, and Ernest Hébrard is considered as a pioneer of the French urbanism. His ideas and architectural plans were representative of the first generation of French urbanists with all their achievements and limitations. In 1902, Prost made a design drawing of a national printing office in Italy and was subsequently awarded with the Prix de Rome scholarship. His plans for the restoration of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople received a medal at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1912. Prost was the co-founder in 1911 of the Société française des urbanistes (SFU) with architects Donat Alfred Agache, Mr. Auburtin, A. Bérard, Eugène Hénard (Architect of the City of Paris), Léon Jaussely, A. Parenty, engineer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier and the landscape architect Edouard Redont.[9] He became a member of the Central Society of Architects in 1930. He was elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in 1933. He served as Director of the Special School of Architecture from 1929 to 1959.


  1. ^ Cohen, Jean-Louis. Henri Prost and Casablanca: the art of making successful cities (1912-1940). The New City, (fall 1996), № 3, p. 106-121.
  2. ^ Wright, Gwendolyn. Tradition in the service of modernity: architecture and urbanism in French colonial policy, 1900-1930. The Journal of Modern History, 59, № 2 (1987): 291-316.
  3. ^ From Grand Landscapes to Metropolises: Henri Prost. In Pierre Pinon, F. Cânâ Bilsel. From the Imperial Capital to the Republican Modern City: Henry Prost's Planning of Istanbul (1936-1951). Araștimalari Enstitüsü, Istanboul, 2010, p. 47-70.
  4. ^ Henri Prost (1874-1959): Notice biographique. Cite de L’architecture et du Patrimoine: Institut français d’architecture, n.a. PDF
  5. ^ Çelik, Z. (1993). The remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an Ottoman city in the nineteenth century. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, p. 161.
  6. ^ a b c Bilsel, F. Cânâ. Shaping a Modern City out of an Ancient Capital: Henri Prost's plan for the historical peninsula of Istanbul. (n.a.) Ankara, Turkey: Middle East Technical University, Department of Architecture. PDF
  7. ^ Cânâ Bilsel. Remodelling the Imperial Capital in the Early Republican Era: the Representation of History in Henri Prost’s Planning of Istanbul. In: Power and culture : identity, ideology, representation / edited by Jonathan Osmond and Ausma Cimdiņa. – Pisa : Plus-Pisa university press, 2007. PDF
  8. ^ Yildirim, Birge. Transformation of public squares of Istanbul between 1938-1949. Istambul: Istanbul Technical University, Faculty of Architecture. The 15th International Planning History Society (IPHS), 15–18 July 2012. PDF
  9. ^ Membre du comité scientifique et auteur des articles sur Élie Azagury, Gaston Bardet, Eugène Beaudouin, Georges Benoit-Lévy, Marius Boyer, Alexandre Chemetoff, Michel Écochard, Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, Tony Garnier, Eugène Hénard, Gaston Jaubert, Léon Jaussely, Jean Labatut, Marcel Lods, André Lurçat, Henri Prost, Charles Siclis et Jean-François Zevaco in Carlo Olmo, dir., Dizionario dell'architettura dell XX secolo, Turin, Umberto Allemandi, 2000.