Blue Mosque in Istanbul, a World Heritage Site and example of the classical style period of Ottoman architecture, showing Byzantine influence.
Ottoman architecture is the architecture of the Ottoman Empire which emerged in Bursa and Edirne in 14th and 15th centuries. The architecture of the empire developed from the earlier Seljuk architecture and was influenced by the Byzantine architecture, Armenian architecture, Iranian as well as Islamic Mamluk traditions after the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans. For almost 400 years Byzantine architectural artifacts such as the church of Hagia Sophia served as models for many of the Ottoman mosques. Overall, Ottoman architecture has been described as Byzantine architecture synthesized with architectural traditions of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The Ottomans achieved the highest level architecture in their lands hence or since. They mastered the technique of building vast inner spaces confined by seemingly weightless yet massive domes, and achieving perfect harmony between inner and outer spaces, as well as articulated light and shadow. Islamic religious architecture which until then consisted of simple buildings with extensive decorations, was transformed by the Ottomans through a dynamic architectural vocabulary of vaults, domes, semi domes and columns. The mosque was transformed from being a cramped and dark chamber with arabesque-covered walls into a sanctuary of aesthetic and technical balance, refined elegance and a hint of heavenly transcendence.
Today, one finds remnants of Ottoman architecture in certain parts of its former territories under decay.
Early Ottoman period
With the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, the years 1300–1453 constitute the early or first Ottoman period, when Ottoman art was in search of new ideas. This period witnessed three types of mosques: tiered, single-domed and subline-angled mosques. The Hacı Özbek Mosque (1333) in İznik, the first important center of Ottoman art, is the first example of an Ottoman single-domed mosque.
Bursa Period (1299–1437)
The domed architectural style evolved from Bursa and Edirne. The Holy Mosque in Bursa was the first Seljuk mosque to be converted into a domed one. Edirne was the last Ottoman capital before Istanbul, and it is here that we witness the final stages in the architectural development that culminated in the construction of the great mosques of Istanbul. Some of the buildings constructed in Istanbul during the period between the capture of the city and the construction of the Istanbul Bayezid II Mosque are also considered late works of the early period, blending Classical Period work with the influences of the Bursa Period. Among these are the Fatih Mosque (1470), Mahmutpaşa Mosque, the tiled palace and Topkapı Palace. The Ottomans integrated mosques into the community and added soup kitchens, theological schools, hospitals, Turkish baths and tombs.
Classical period (1437–1703)
The Classical period of Ottoman architecture is to a large degree a development of the prior approaches as they evolved over the 15th and early 16th centuries and the start of the Classical period is strongly associated with the works of Mimar Sinan. In this period, Ottoman architecture, especially with the works, and under the influence, of Sinan, saw a new unification and harmonization of the various architectural parts, elements and influences that Ottoman architecture had previously absorbed but which had not yet been harmonized into a collective whole. Taking heavily from the Byzantine tradition, and in particular the influence of the Hagia Sophia, Classical Ottoman architecture was, as before, ultimately a syncretic blend of numerous influences and adaptations for Ottoman needs. In what may be the most emblematic of the structures of this period, the classical mosques designed by Sinan and those after him used a dome-based structure, similar to that of Hagia Sophia, but among other things changed the proportions, opened the interior of the structure and freed it from the colonnades and other structural elements that broke up the inside of Hagia Sophia and other Byzantine churches, and added more light, with greater emphasis on the use of lighting and shadow with a huge volume of windows.
These developments were themselves both a mixture of influence from Hagia Sophia and similar Byzantine structures, as well as the result of the developments of Ottoman architecture from 1400 on, which, in the words of Godfrey Goodwin, had already "achieved that poetic interplay of shaded and sunlit interiors which pleased Le Corbusier."
During the classical period mosque plans changed to include inner and outer courtyards. The inner courtyard and the mosque were inseparable. The master architect of the classical period, Mimar Sinan, was born in 1489/1490 in Kayseri and died in Istanbul in the year 1588. Sinan started a new era in world architecture, creating 334 buildings in various cities. Mimar Sinan's first important work was the Şehzade Mosque completed in 1548. His second significant work was the Süleymaniye Mosque and the surrounding complex, built for Suleiman the Magnificent. The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne was built during the years 1568–74, when Sinan was in his prime as an architect. The Rüstempaşa, Mihriman Sultan, Ibrahimpasa Mosques and the Şehzade, Kanuni Sultan Süleyman, Roxelana and Selim II mausoleums are among Sinan's most renowned works. Most classical period design used the Byzantine architecture of the neighboring Balkans as its base, and from there, ethnic elements were added creating a different architectural style.
Examples of Ottoman architecture of the classical period, aside from Turkey, can also be seen in the Balkans, Hungary, Egypt, Tunisia and Algiers, where mosques, bridges, fountains and schools were built.
During the reign of Ahmed III (1703–1730) and under the impetus of his grand vizier İbrahim Paşa, a period of peace ensued. Due to its relations with France, Ottoman architecture began to be influenced by the Baroque and Rococo styles that were popular in Europe. The Baroque style is noted as first being developed by Seljuk Turks, according to a number of academics. Examples of the creation of this art form can be witnessed in Divriği hospital and mosque a UNESCO world heritage site, SivasÇifteminare, Konya İnce Minare museum and many more. It is often called the Seljuk Baroque portal. From here it emerged again in Italy, and later grew in popularity among the Turks during the Ottoman era. Various visitors and envoys were sent to European cities, especially to Paris, to experience the contemporary European customs and life. The decorative elements of the European Baroque and Rococo influenced even the religious Ottoman architecture. On the other hand, Mellin, a French architect, was invited by a sister of Sultan Selim III to Istanbul and depicted the Bosphorus shores and the pleasure mansions (yalıs) placed next to the sea. During a thirty-year period known as the Tulip Period, all eyes were turned to the West, and instead of monumental and classical works, villas and pavilions were built around Istanbul. However, it was about this time when the construction on the Ishak Pasha Palace in Eastern Anatolia was going on, (1685–1784).
Tulip Period (1703–1757)
Beginning with this period, the upper class and the elites in the Ottoman Empire started to use the open and public areas frequently. The traditional, introverted manner of the society began to change. Fountains and waterside residences such as Aynalıkavak Kasrı became popular. A water canal (other name is Cetvel-i Sim), a picnic area (Kağıthane) were established as recreational area. Although the tulip age ended with the Patrona Halil uprising, it became a model for attitudes of westernization. During the years 1720–1890, Ottoman architecture deviated from the principals of classical times. With Ahmed III’s death, Mahmud I took the throne (1730–1754). It was during this period that Baroque-style mosques were starting to be constructed.
Baroque Period (1757–1808)
Circular, wavy and curved lines are predominant in the structures of this period. Major examples are Nur-u Osmaniye Mosque, Laleli Mosque, Fatih Tomb, Laleli Çukurçeşme Inn, and Birgi Çakırağa Mansion. Mimar Tahir is the important architect of the time. The edicule containing the tomb of Jesus inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Christendom, has also been rebuilt in 1810 in Ottoman Baroque style.
Empire Period (1808–1876)
Nusretiye Mosque, Ortaköy Mosque, Sultan Mahmut Tomb, Galata Lodge of Mevlevi Derviches, Dolmabahçe Palace, Çırağan Palace, Beylerbeyi Palace, Sadullah Pasha Yalı, Kuleli Barracks, and Selimiye Barracks are the important examples of this style developed parallel with the westernization process. Architects from the Balyan family and the Fossati brothers were the leading ones of the time.
Late period (1876–1922): The "National Architectural Renaissance"
The final period of architecture in the Ottoman Empire, developed after 1900 and in particular put into effect after the Young Turks took power in 1908–1909, is what was then called the "National Architectural Renaissance" and which gave rise to the style since referred to as the First National Style of Turkish architecture. The approach in this period was an Ottoman revival style, a reaction to influences in the previous 200 years that had come to be considered "foreign," such as Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, and was intended to promote Ottoman patriotism and self-identity. This was actually an entirely new style of architecture, related to earlier Ottoman architecture in rather the same manner was other roughly contemporaneous "revival" architectures, such as Gothic Revival Architecture, related to their stylistic inspirations. Like other "revival" architectures, "Ottoman Revival" architecture of this period was based on modern construction techniques and materials such as reinforced concrete, iron, steel, and often glass roofs, and in many cases used what was essentially a Beaux-Arts structure with outward stylistic motifs associated with the original architecture from which it was inspired. It focused outwardly on forms and motifs seen to be traditionally "Ottoman," such as pointed arches, ornate tile decoration, wide roof overhangs with supporting brackets, domes over towers or corners, etc.
Originally, this style was meant to promote the patriotism and identity of the historically multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire, but by the end of WWI and the creation of the Turkish Republic, it was adopted by the republican Turkish nationalists to promote a new Turkish sense of patriotism. In this role, it continued into, and influenced the later architecture of, the Republic of Turkey.
One of the earliest and most important examples of this style is the Istanbul Central Post Office in Sirkeci, completed in 1909 and designed by Vedat Tek (also known as Vedat Bey).
Other important extant examples include the Istanbul ferryboat terminals built between 1913 and 1917, such as the Besiktas terminal by Ali Talat Bey (1913), the Haydarpasa terminal by Vedat Tek (1913), the Taksim Military Barracks, and the Buyukada terminal by Mihran Azaryan (1915). Another important extant example is the Sultanahmet Jail, now the Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet.
In Ankara, the earliest building in the style is the building that now houses the War of Independence Museum and served as the first house of the Turkish Republic's National Assembly in 1920. It was built in 1917 by Ismail Hasif Bey as the local headquarters for the Young Turks' Committee of Union and Progress.
Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, Sheikh Zafir Group of Buildings, Haydarpasha School of Medicine, Duyun-u Umumiye Building, Istanbul Title Deed Office, Large Postoffice Buildings, Laleli Harikzedegan Apartments are the important structures of this period when an eclectic style was dominant. Raimondo D'Aronco and Alexander Vallaury were the leading architects of this period in Istanbul. Apart from Vallaury and D'Aronco, the other leading architects who made important contributions to the late Ottoman architecture in Istanbul included the architects of the Balyan family, William James Smith, August Jachmund, Mimar Kemaleddin Bey, Vedat Tek and Giulio Mongeri.
Serkiz Löle Gizo contributed some important architecture in Mardin. Cercis Murat Konağı, Şehidiye minaret, and P.T.T. building are some of his work.
The eclectic Ottoman 'revival' style, that was sometimes supplemented with Art Nouveau motifs, also had some following outside of Turkey. Especially architects in Azerbaijan, but also in parts of Iran, tried to blend local vernacular with modern construction in a similar way during the 1920s. N.G. Bayev's central railway station of Baku is an example of this revival style, with more Persian (or Seljuk) ornamentation.
“The semblance of Paradise (cennet) promised the pious and devout [is that of a garden] with streams of water that will not go rank, and rivers of milk whose taste will not undergo a change, and rivers of wine delectable to drinkers, and streams of purified honey, and fruits of every kind in them, and forgiveness from their lord” (47:15)
According to the Qur'an, paradise is described as a place, a final destination. Basically the eternal life, that is filled with “spiritual and physical” happiness. Earth gardens in the Ottoman period were highly impacted by paradise, therefore connected with the arts and spaces of the everyday life, having many descriptions relating to the Qur'an. Hence, gardens, or “Earthly Paradise”, are abstract perceptions of heaven, as a result must symbolize a serene place that shows “eternity and peace”.
Nature became a method for decorative patterns in architectural details and urban structure. Everything was inspired by nature and became included with nature. From the ceilings of the mosques and the walls of the palaces, kiosks and summer palaces (pavilions), which were all embellished with tiles, frescoes and hand-carved ornaments, to the kaftans, the yashmaks and so much more. Clearly paradise’s nature was everywhere; in many spaces of the daily life.
Without a doubt the general layout of the gardens did reflect many descriptions in the Qur'an, yet one of the great strengths of early Islam, was that Muslims looked at different sources and used useful ideas and techniques from diverse sources, particularly Byzantium. Garden pavilions often took the form of square or centrally planned free-standing structures open on all sides, designed specifically to enjoy the sight, scent and music of the environment. Some of the forms of the gardens were based for instance on the Hagia Sophia’s atrium, which has cypresses around a central fountain, and the plantings in the mosques were given a “specifically Muslim theological interpretation”. The mosques expanded its functions and services, by adding hospitals, madars, libraries, etc., and therefore gardens helped organize the elements for all the various buildings.
In Islamic cities, such as the Ottoman cities, where the mosques were considered as the “focal” point, it was common for mosques to have adjacent gardens. Therefore, mosque structures were based somewhat to relate to the gardens. For example, the Sulemaniye mosque, had windows in the qibla wall to create continuity with the garden outside. The mihrab had stained glass windows and iznik tiles that suggest a gate into paradise. The windows looking outwards to the garden to create the effect in which flowers from the garden act as if it would “perfume the minds of the congregation as if they have entered heaven.” Also, Rüstem Pasha mosque was known for its usage of izink tiles, where the decoration design provides a showcase for the iznik tile industry. The inscriptions on pendentives suggest that the soul of the devout is certain to reside in paradise.The main inscriptions in these mosques were of water and ponds, kiosks, fruits such as pomegranates, apples, pears, grapes, etc. Also wine, dance, music, serving women and boys, all which turn the entertainment vision into a “paradise on earth”.
Apart from the mosques, cities were also developed into “extremely friendly cities”. They had grape arbors in shaded narrow streets, corners with trees and gardens. Trees were thought to be the balancing element of architecture that provided harmony between nature and buildings. For that reason, Ottoman cities “look as though they are extensions of the piece of land where they were built”. Also the usage of timber in the buildings add to the connection with nature. A Turkish architect and city planner, Turgut Cansever, described the Ottoman cities as the “Ottoman paradises‟ and said that the Islamic characteristics are best represented by the Ottoman cities. “The ones who build the paradise where there exist no conflicts but all the beauties, tried to rise and open the Gates of paradise by accomplishing the task of beautifying the world.” The intimate relationship of architecture with nature attracted the element of trees and water. With its exclusively natural “synthesis structure”, the Ottoman city was green, as many travelers have described it. Also, water was a fundamental element, as was the cypress tree. Antoine Galland wrote, “Turkish gardens were conduits and little channels which took water everywhere and from which water was extracted under pressure.” However, there is no evidence in the first four centuries of Islam that gardens were consciously designed with four quadrants and four water channels in order to represent paradise as the Qur'an described it.
Examples of Ottoman architecture
Examples of Ottoman architecture
Style Modern Turkish nomenclature Example
Cami Selimiye Mosque
Medrese Caferağa Medresseh
Türbe Yeşil Türbe
Kervansaray Büyük Han
Darüşşifa Bayezid II Külliye Health Museum
Köprü Mostar bridge
Saray Topkapı Palace