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Five Ottoman architectural gems (with no queues to get in)

The deep footprint of Ottoman architecture style is visible in every corner of Istanbul. Santiago Brusadin introduces us to five lesser-known but unique pieces of Ottoman heritage in the city. (Photos by Julius Motal)

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fter the conquest of Costantinople in 1453, the sultan Mehmet II decided to renovate the decaying city according to his ambitious vision of a world empire’s capital. While his most impressive architectural commissions are his mosque complex and the Topkapı Palace, the sultan also invited artists and architects from all over Europe to help turn the city into a prosperous metropolis. His artistic patronage encouraged diverse forms of artistic languages like the Italian Renaissance, Byzantine and Turkmen traditions to dialogue and combine with Ottoman culture. Mehmet II's large-scale reconstruction plan was further elaborated upon by his successors. The reign of Süleyman the Magnificent saw the golden period for Ottoman arts and culture. Mimar Sinan was the architectural master who revolutionized traditional building methods and brought architecture into new dimensions of size and perfection, leaving a legacy of more then 300 buildings. In the classical period, which lasted until 1703, hundreds of mosque complexes, mausoleums, and madrasas were constructed, along with a number of tekkes, the houses of dervish fraternities.

Ilhamur Pavilion

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During the Tulip era (1703 – 1757) the high-class society and power elites in the capital of the empire ventured more into open and public areas in their daily lives. Fountains became the characteristic structures of this period, functioning as neighborhood centers where people interacted while waiting their turn to get their drinking water.  The two following periods, the Baroque (1757- 1808) and Empire eras (1808-1876), deviated from the principles of classical times. Istanbul started a westernization process and new palaces and mosques were built in Neoclassical, Baroque and Rococo styles. These periods

Sirkeci Station

The Orient Express has been a source of inspiration for many books and films in popular culture. Although its route changed several times through the course of its 126 years, the two main endpoints were the cities of Paris and Istanbul. Here the train stopped at the Ottoman railway station of Sirkeci. In 1888, designed by the architect August Jasmund, a terminus station in Sirkeci was erected, allowing a route to run on the shoreline of the Marmara Sea bordering the walls of Topkapı Palace. The architect of the project was a Prussian who was sent to the city by the German government in order to study Ottoman architecture, and ended up lecturing architectural design at the Taşkışla faculty. The terminal constituted the main connection node of the Turkish railway network with the rest of Europe (although not anymore) and is one of the most famous examples of European Orientalism, with a delightful combination of

witnessed the construction of grand scale structures like the Dolmabahçe Palace and the Taşkışla military barracks in Taksim. The late period of the architecture in the Ottoman Empire (1876-1922) saw the rise of the National Architectural Renaissance, a revival style that attempted to promote Ottoman patriotism through a so-called nationalist architecture. The style of this period is based on the techniques and stylistic motifs of Seljuk-Ottoman architecture. Important secular buildings were also built: baths, summer palaces – like the Ilhamur presented here – and transportation

terminals like Haydarpaşa and the Sirkeci Station. Today Istanbul is an architectural chaos, a place where skyscrapers and huge modern structures compete with the splendid legacy of Ottoman architecture. In this urban configuration, it seems like only extravagant palaces and the biggest mosques manage to get attention. It’s a shame, as more modest architectural forms equally illustrate the magnificence and sophistication that characterized the different periods of Ottoman architecture. Here are five treasures in disguise we invite you to discover.

The whirling dervishes are among the most enduring images of Turkey. Hidden in the heart of contemporary Istanbul, you can find the Galata Mevlevihanesi, the first and oldest surviving dervish monastery or tekke in the city. Opened in 1491 under the Ottoman sultan Beyazit II, it became so famous that even sultans would dare out of the palace to watch intricate brickwork, stained glass their ceremonies here. The complex was damaged by a windows and colorful tiles. At big earthquake in 1509 and the time the building was quite later by a fire in 1765. It has advanced, having gas lighting been extensively restored and heating in winter. several times since then and The terminal’s restaurant its current configuration is still became a meeting point for a remarkable representation journalists, writers and famous of the classical period of the people in the 1950s and Ottoman heritage. 1960s. The same restaurant, This splendid yet modest today called ‘Orient Express’, complex is located on Galip is a popular spot among Dede Caddesi, the cobbled tourists. The station, currently being restored, is preserved almost in its original state. It recently incorporated a stop for the Marmaray line under the Bosphorus. Though its glory days as the terminus of the Orient Express are over, it's still a wonderful tribute to locomotive history. It is a pleasure to stroll through the station or the small railway museum and imagine the famous luxury train arriving in Constantinople with its horde of impeccably dressed diplomats, spies and eminent passengers like Agatha Christie. Sirkeci station , Sirkeci Istasyonu Caddesi, Eminönü

street that takes you to Galata tower from Tünel Square at the southern end of Istiklal Caddesi. It’s now been converted into a museum dedicated to the Sufi order, with a detailed exhibition that presents their rituals, beliefs and music. Halet Efendi, an Ottoman diplomat ambassador to the court of Napoleon I, is buried in a richly decorated tomb to the left as you enter from the street. As you continue you will find the Hamuşan, the small graveyard where the carved hats (fes) atop the gravestones indicate the deceased's religious rank in the dervish hierarchy. The interior courtyard is a pleasant oasis away from the hustle and bustle of Istiklal Caddesi. Take your time to wander around the fountain,

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Galata Mevlihanesi

the garden and the terrace before getting in the museum. Inside it you will find out about every aspect of the Sufi way of life: a collection of clothing, instruments, accessories and scenes of their daily life as well

as the architectural structures that rose to fulfill the ceremonial needs: the lodge (tekke), the hospice (zaviye) or the threshold (asitaneh). The lodges are where the whirling happens. It’s a magnificent two-story octagonal

space with a wooden floor and a highly ornamented roof. Head to the second floor to catch a better perspective of this delicate space. Don’t miss the chance to admire the graceful and hypnotic spinning ceremony Ilhamur pavilion

Ottoman architecture shows its maximum splendor in the large palaces that belonged to the sultans, the Topkapı palace being its ultimate example. By contrast, the summer palaces were mostly used for short stays during country excursions and hunting. They draw less attention among tourists but despite their smaller scale, they are equally rich architectural expressions of the Ottoman era. The Ilhamur Palace remains somewhat unnoticed behind a high white fence in the center of Beşiktaş. At the time of its original construction in the 19 th century, the pavilion stood in what was still the countryside, in a valley called Ilhamur. Before the royal lodges were constructed the sultan Abdülmecid used to visit this valley frequently for the linden trees that grow in its gardens. Built by the ArmenianTurkish architect Nikoğos Balyan between 1849 and 1855, it consists of two pavilions, the Maiyet Köşkü and the Merasim Köşkü. The former is the first you find

upon accessing this peaceful garden. It’s the plainer and smaller of the two and was used by the sultan's entourage (including his harem during excursions out of the Topkapı Palace). It also accommodated prestigious visitors like the kings of Bulgaria and Serbia. It has now been transformed into a charming cafe. The more ornamented pavilion, the Merasim Köşkü, was reserved for the sultan's own use. A symmetrical curving staircase and rich Baroque motifs frame the central entrance. The interior decoration is typical of Ottoman palaces of the Empire Period such as Çırağan or Beylerbeyi: westernized but eclectic, with Yıldız porcelain, and stunning carpets and chandeliers. Enjoy the aesthetic excellence of this pavilion while having a cup of linden tea, as the Turkish word ihlamur implies, at the terrace. Ihlamur Pavilion, Ihlamurdere Caddesi, Beşiktaş; Open every day except Monday and Tursday (09.30-17.00). 4 TL (only 1TL to access the garden)

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on Fridays between 5pm to 7pm in this authentic setting. Galata Mevlevihanesi Müzesi, Galip Dede Caddesi 15. Tue-Sun (09- 16.30). There is a small admission fee, but it’s free if you have the muzeekart.


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Tophane Fountain

Water structures were fundamental in the daily life of the Ottoman Empire as the number of remaining aqueducts, cisterns and çesme (fountains) in the city testify. Renowned families often donated money for the construction of a fountain as an expression of their economic and social status. Fountains were decorative features of outdoor public spaces and reflected the architectural taste and styles of each period. The mosque square always had a fountain, while the local fountain was a crucial focal point of every neighborhood as a hub of social interaction. The Tophane Fountain is a tower-like structure located between the Kılıç Ali Pasha Complex and the Nusretiye Mosque, just in front of the place famously known for their nargile. It was designed by the architect Mehmet Ağa – who also designed the Blue Mosque - and built upon the orders of

Contrary to popular belief, the Ottoman Empire embraced a modernized public education system. An elementary and secondary education was already available and free for both sexes by 1846.w Similar efforts only began in England forty years later. Considered the world's third institution of higher learning specifically dedicated to engineering education, Istanbul Technical University (ITU) has a long history that began 200 years ago. It was founded by Sultan Mustafa Sultan Mahmut I in 1732. III as the Imperial School of The fountain has a central Naval Engineering and it was tank in which water is stored. The roof of the tank is supposed originally dedicated to the training of ship builders and serve a dual purpose as a cartographers. shadow device and prayer This immense building, terrace. It has a stone slab very close to Taksim Square, known as ayna taşı, in which was designed by William the tap was fitted, set inside a James Smith, who made decorated arched niche. important contributions to the The fountain was built when late Ottoman architecture in Western influence was at its Istanbul. It was constructed in peak, and shows the transition structural masonry between from Classical to Baroque 1848 and 1853 as a military style in the Tulip Period of the medicine academy for the Ottoman Architecture. This can Ottoman Army. However, during be seen in the monumental size of the structure, the large Taşkışla Faculty overhanging roof and the harmonic proportions of the arched niches. This is the tallest fountain in Istanbul, a rare freestanding monument intended to impress the viewer with the modernity and power of Ottoman architecture. Tophane Fountain, Tophane (just in front of the Tophane tramway stop)

construction, the building’s function was changed to military barracks. These arsenals were to ensure the safety of the imperial domain around the Dolmabahçe Palace. The building later sustained some damage in the earthquake of 1894, and was restored by an Italian architect called Raimondo D’Aronco who introduced Art Nouveau’s style in Istanbul. In 1944 the building was handed over to the ITU and teaching began after restoration in 1950. It is currently the home of the faculty of architecture. The plan of Taşkışla consists of four equal sides marked with four corner towers and an interior open courtyard. The building resembles a cloister garden of a medieval monastery following the pattern of many European colleges. The main entrance is in the west façade under a classical colonnade, and the east terrace offers impressive views over the Bosphorus. Taşkışla Faculty, Taşkışla Caddesi, Beyoğlu

Tophane Fountain

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