This ancient (kadim) city, which has been considered through the periodization of the Ancient Age, the Antiquity, the Byzantine, Ottoman and Republic eras, still retains its place today as one of the most important cities due to the twenty first-century dynamism in architecture. Undoubtedly, surviving the ancient times and continuing to exist in contemporary times as a metropolis, Istanbul’s architectural story is the one rich enough to fill volumes containing its history and a comprehensive evaluation. As the exposed face of the city, it is possible that architectural works constitute the most valuable material for modern historical research, which takes ancient history, mythology, official records and historical academic narratives as its main subjects. We must first consider how the matter or materials of a history of architecture should be positioned, particularly in regards to the historical prosperity of Istanbul. The history of the city during its time as Byzantium, Constantinople, and then Istanbul, as well as the history of the transformation processes in between, has been presented from religious, political and economic perspectives and from various angles of daily life with many different models. It is essential that the literature of Istanbul’s architectural historiography, which exhibits a multi-faceted appearance in terms of style, method and content, connect with the aforementioned historical fields. In general terms, architectural works and the structural development of the city are the most visible expositions of the political, social, economic and daily life. At the very least, this should be perceived as the most reliable approach in the context of architectural history. On the other hand, the disciplines of art and architecture have preferred an ‘autonomous’ language or different concepts. Beyond achieving an attitude of disciplines or narrative forms, which break down and deepen within their respective disciplines today, it is necessary to undertake approaches that combine multiple disciplines. In this manner, the architectural history of Istanbul should be considered to be a common ground that occupies an independent place in the general construction of history, where all the other fields that constitute the history of the city come together.
In this section, the periodization of the architectural adventure of Istanbul is created by adopting the most general framework of the political history for ease of understanding. The sub-periodization of these eras is delineated in terms of architectural characteristics. These periods, which can briefly be summarized as Byzantine, Ottoman and Republican eras, are presented in 27 separate articles, and architectural history is divided into six periods. Six of these are feature articles, while the others support these feature articles, offering a variety of styles, methods and theoretical frameworks. The general frame of the processes traced from the Byzantine period until 2014 is presented through these six feature articles: 1) Byzantine Period Architecture of Istanbul, 2) Early Ottoman Architecture of Istanbul, 3) The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Architecture of Istanbul, 4) The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Period of Radical Change in Istanbul’s Architecture: 5) The Concept of the Contemporary City from the Late Ottoman Period to the Republic and the Zoning of Istanbul, and 6) Architecture in Istanbul in the Republican Period. Each feature article offers sub-periodizations considering its special framework and criteria of the architectural history.
During the early periods of its existence, Istanbul’s architectural heritage, from the founding myths of Byzantium to the ancient history settlements, as well as in various other eras, can all be related to the Byzantine Period. The period before 330 can be illuminated by archaeological data and the same historical research material for archaeology can be used for architecture. These ancient times have been presented in articles on archaeology in several parts of this book. In particular, roughly between 330 and 726, the traces of Late Antiquity, the Roman period and the heritage transmitted from previous eras all have significant influence on the settlement’s character and shaping of its architectural edifices. As of 330, the city was constructed on this heritage, and the religious-political-architectural exchange that combined with this heritage created new temporal conditions. Ultimately, in this early period the city was able to produce a unique Byzantine architecture. The sub-periods of Byzantine art and architecture have been divided roughly into five categories: 1) Early period (330-726), 2) Icon-Destruction and Iconoclastic Period (726-843), 3) Middle Byzantine Period (843-1204), 4) The Fourth Crusade-Latin Empire Period (1204-1261), and 5) Late Period-Palaiologos Dynasty period (1261-1453).
The Ottoman Period features a myriad of diverse research materials in terms of written sources, such as archival resources, historical texts and travelogues; in addition, there are permanent structural sources, such as architectural works. In this context, taking the critical thresholds of Ottoman architectural history into consideration, it is possible to roughly divide the architectural history of Ottoman Istanbul into three periods: Early Era, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The approximately 70-year period after the conquest which encompassed the reigns of Sultan Mehmed II, Bayezid II and Yavuz Sultan Selim can be defined as the Early Period; this was a time during which Istanbul was gradually transformed into an Islamic city. Although this period is small relative to the entire 470-year Ottoman reign, in quality it is equal to the other two, longer periods into which we have divided Ottoman Istanbul’s architectural history. The Early Period covers the architectural benchmarks that include the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque (1453) and the creation of Yavuz Sultan Selim Külliye (1520). Istanbul’s second Ottoman architectural period covers the years between the 1520s and the 1700s, a roughly 200-year period, which if one adheres to the political-historical periodization coincides with the classical period and period of stagnation. The third period is the era covering the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and can be extended to the proclamation of the Republic (1923). It includes stylistic phases such as “baroque”, “revivalist”, “pro-Westernisation”, “modern”, “early modern” and “nationalistic”. As can be seen from these descriptions, the third Ottoman period is a complicated one, as Istanbul is now part of a world of architectural practices, which are difficult to express by referring to only one concept. Therefore, the most objective and the least simplified definition to express this complex structure will be the generic “ the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries”.
The transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century is such a vital and complicated period that different point of views and focal points are needed in order to better understand the architectural history and character of the city at this time. In other words, it is essential to analyze the web of relations between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries of Ottoman Istanbul and the following Republican period; this can be done through various theoretical frameworks and subjects. In particular, planning and zoning efforts are extremely important in the macro plan to better understand the transformation of the city as a physical form. These efforts were put forth and discussed in Istanbul during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when urban planning in the modern sense emerged and became a professional area in the West as well as in the Ottoman Empire. The physical environment and the cultural properties of the remains of the Byzantine and Ottoman periods underwent changes in meaning due to modern planning initiatives in these centuries. The city is still being re-built, the public is gaining new modes of perception, and these perceptions are being reflected onto the city as physical properties and new forms. The basic interest areas of architectural history in the twenty first century, architectural works, have gained meaning within this macro form and modes of perception, as well as on the urban base that was prepared with modern planning tools. To sum up, the connection between the Ottoman and the Republican periods should be examined repeatedly but from different points of view. In this section of this work, there is an attempt at chronological overlapping as well as at presenting diversity in theoretical framework.
When it comes to the proclamation of the Republic and the twentieth century, the great variety of routes that one can follow to understand Istanbul’s architecture are incredibly diverse, thus making the recording of the history of architecture in this period an extremely difficult challenge. Although, if one adheres to political history, it seems meaningful to commence with Republican architectural history from the political proclamation in 1923, such a sharp periodization is almost impossible in a field like architecture, where social elements have a direct impact on forms and meanings. With such a rigid classification, it would only be possible to talk about the transformation of the demands and government implementations. It is almost impossible to understand the history of architecture in Istanbul during the Republican period without referring to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Perhaps the mingling of Ottoman and Republican periods, mentioned in the previous paragraph, comes into play at this point. Only after such a step would it be possible to speak of approaches put into practice according to the model of the new administration. Considering these critical points, it becomes important to start examining the architecture of Republican Istanbul in 1923 and bring it up until 2014.
It cannot be denied that every attempts of periodization will bring unavoidable reductions. However, the six-part periodization, the criteria of which are explained above, has the potential to present a general framework that will help understand Istanbul’s present architecture and its architectural history.
Considering the period of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul, which can simply be divided into five sub-periods, it is possible to say that the Byzantine city was protected by the natural barriers of the landscape, namely the Black Sea, Golden Horn and Marmara Sea, which together formed an envelope in which the public could settle. Byzantine Istanbul had the basic, constitutive and determining features of an urban space. While the Hippodrome was the symbolic center for the government and society, the imperial buildings, squares and obelisks reinforced this character. Byzantine Istanbul gained its unique character gradually; it became diversified with the addition of ports that were created to bring in provisions for the city, as well as various water structures to supply water, and religious structures. The latter were perhaps one of the most important elements to the city architecture.
If one were to describe Hagia Sophia, the oldest and most important structure of the city, perhaps even the world, as a single structure the history of Istanbul’s architecture would be flawed. Hagia Sophia is, so to speak, the founding father of Istanbul’s architectural history, it is the flesh and bones. It is a rare representation of the ancient past of the city. Hagia Sophia has determined the architectural direction of the city, acting as a point of comparison and reference of the architectural history in both the Byzantine and Ottoman periods. In addition, this structure has always been carefully reformatted by the new political actors in every period. Thus, it is possible to say that Hagia Sophia is a unique example. However, there are many monasteries and churches like Hagia Sophia included in the heritage taken up by the Ottomans; thus, describing one is tantamount to describing all. For instance, Kariya and Zeyrek churches/mosques and Virgin Mary (Theotokos) Constantine Lips Monastery Church (Fenari Isa Mosque) can be mentioned. During the Byzantine period of Istanbul, Hagia Sophia was one of nearly 40 active monasteries in the reign of Andronikos II. “The mosque in the monastery district”, which was converted into a mosque in the Ottoman period, acts as a silent witness to the transformation of a Byzantine city into an Ottoman city.
The early Ottoman architecture of Istanbul commences with the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and the rule of Sultan Mehmed II. This is a reference point that enables a visual impression of Istanbul as an Ottoman city. The turbulent thirteenth and fourteenth centuries of the Byzantine city, times when there were Crusades and transfers of power, clarified the architectural heritage that would be transferred to the Ottomans. The ruined Hippodrome and the Great Palace, Hagia Sophia, St. Irene and Aziz Havariler (Holy Apostles) Church are the most important monuments inherited by the Ottomans. In addition, perhaps the most important legacy consists of the structures that were built during the last two centuries of the Byzantine era, under the Palailogos dynasty. The new owners of the city, the Ottomans, brought with them the architectural intelligence of the former capital cities of Bursa and Edirne; here they had implemented the heritage from the Islamic world and the beyliks (principalities).
In addition to major edifices, we must consider the housing culture in Istanbul in the aftermath of the conquest, as this forms a substantial part of early Ottoman architecture; however, this is one of the most difficult issues to discuss. The basic reason for this is that physical records of residential structures from the early Ottoman period have not survived; moreover, these structures underwent radical transformations in the subsequent five centuries. Fortunately, the Ottoman Empire was a civilization that was based on records, and with the vakıf tahrir records (cadastral records) and some visual materials created by local and foreign travelers during these periods, some clues are available.
The architecture of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Istanbul reflects a period when Islamic-Ottoman identity was clarified and new combinations created a unique character. In the second quarter of the sixteenth century, the reign of Sultan Süleyman I the Magnificent started; a külliye (social complex) built in the name of the former ruler, Yavuz Sultan Selim, was being constructed. From the 1520s to the 1700s, Ottoman Istanbul can be analyzed through the founders, architects, written texts, and construction relations of the period. Throughout the sixteenth century, külliyes and buildings were sponsored by members of the imperial family (the sultan and harem), and statesmen, many of whom were dignitaries. The chief architects led the architecture practice; their roles in architecture in this period are worthy of attention. These include Acem Ali, Mimar Sinan (Koca Sinan), Davud Agha, Dalgıç Ahmed Agha and Sedefkar Mehmet Agha (who became chief architect in 1606). Various written sources such as vaqfiye (foundation deeds), kitabe (inscriptions) sicil (registers) ferman (edicts) and historical texts about major works in Istanbul are valuable sources for explaining the period. The most important written source regarding houses in Istanbul during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are kadı (court) registries. Through them, inferences about the definitions of the indoor locations such as the layouts of the houses, their immediate environment, garden-courtyard and other external units, house, home, hall, room, haremlik and selamlık can be made. These registers provide information about the dimensions and costs of an early seventeenth-century Istanbul house, as well as telling us about the houses in the vicinity of Istanbul during the late seventeenth century.
Mimar Sinan, Süleymaniye Külliye and Topkapı Palace represent the most distinguishing architectural characteristics of the period. The life story of Sinan, who can be considered to be the architect of Istanbul, working as chief architect from 1539 to 1588, a period of nearly fifty years, as well as the foundations of his approach to architecture and his architectural works which adorned sixteenth-century Istanbul constitute a subject in their own right. According to the collection of biographies written about him Mimar Sinan was an architect who played a role in over 300 construction activities; thus, the name of Mimar Sinan should be given to the period that encompasses the structures of sixteenth-century Istanbul. The overall architectural characteristics and semantic relations that can be established among his aesthetic choices in the work he carried out Süleymaniye Mosque and külliye, where Mimar Sinan’s tomb is located, and the other edifices made in the name of Süleyman in other parts of the world, are extraordinary and unique in nature.
The opening ceremony of Sultan Ahmet Mosque and külliye and the gifts that were sent to Haremeyn-i Şerif on this occasion are significant as they demonstrate the motivation of those who created the Ottoman architecture in Istanbul. Thus, in addition to the history of architecture, one should take such situations into consideration, as well as stylistic preferences. Topkapı Palace, as a group of structures that had annexes added from the fifteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century, is an architectural summary of the Ottoman period. The palace started to be constructed during the reign of Fatih and constituted the dominant architectural-urban scene in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The examination and summary of this scene in the context of construction technology in Istanbul is an architectural historical adventure in its own right.
Following the seventeenth century, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a radical period of change commenced. These centuries provide us with an entirely new framework from which we can analyze Istanbul’s architecture history. Social and architectural relationships became more complicated during these times, and these periods present totally different interpretive forms. At this point, it seems possible to see the period that lasts from the early eighteenth century to the 1820s as “architecture in the early modern metropolis”, while the period from the 1820s to the 1920s can be seen as “the architecture of the metropolis in a capitalist system.” The first great example of the new architectural preferences coming into existence in the capital city were social complexes like Nuruosmaniye and Laleli Külliye, new libraries that were just starting to appear as independent structures in the architecture of Istanbul, and monumental fountains, the decorations of the urban space. All these structures were dominant factors in the seventeenth century. Structures such as mansions, residences, terraced houses, new palaces, barracks, coastal mosques and seraskerat buildings (administrative-financial-educational institutions), embassies, schools, hospitals and postal-telegraph ministries were elements that were added to the architectural heritage of Istanbul in the nineteenth century. The architectural characteristics of eighteenth-century Istanbul houses, which were residences for the majority of the population, can be discovered in the istibdal registries in the provision books of the mid-eighteenth century. On the other hand, in the period that ranges from the second half of the eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, information regarding the interiors of Istanbul houses can be attained from a variety of tereke (estate books) that were issued for the courts; here every kind of possession, property or other personal source of income was registered. Thus, the changes in the nineteenth century can be analyzed from the possessions found in the homes and their patterns of usage. Dolmabahçe and Yıldız are two palaces in nineteenth-century Istanbul that constitute the most comprehensive and distinct group of structures; these were regarded as the residence of the sultan, and thus differ from the houses of the majority of the population. The new forms of representation in the Ottoman State and in Istanbul, the preferences of the sultan, and nearly all the new functions that were brought about by new conditions can be analyzed through these nineteenth-century palaces. In addition, the “baroque” style, a style of architecture, which is mentioned quite often in the history of this period, is another particular subject of inquiry.
As well as the aforementioned topics, the framework evaluated above can be carried out on the different types of structure found in the architectural accumulation of Istanbul, which has been inherited from the eras ranging from Byzantium to the Republic. In this context, the tombs, tekkes, hamams and architecture, the Istanbul çeşmes and sebils (water fountains) can be mentioned as independent frameworks for evaluation.
The repairs and restoration to Istanbul’s architectural history have been explained with examples, which reveal restoration as a modern concept, with repair being a more ancient idea. This topic is concerned with the transitions and changes that Istanbul, an ancient city, underwent in its historical legacy; however, at the same time, it is important that these architectural components be examined with a modern rationale when preserving and restoring them. In other words, it is possible to establish a transition from the Ottoman to the Republican period in this way; this is a process that can also be extended to 2014.
The other two methods that are essential in interpreting the transition of Istanbul from the Ottoman to the Republican period include the concepts of a contemporary city and city planning. In this context, it is necessary to consider the idea of a contemporary city and the planning of Istanbul, as well as development activities in the nineteenth century - which were the basis for the twentieth and twenty first centuries, as well as those of the twentieth century, with special attention to Republic-period planning and development activities. The appearance of the city that started to newly form is reflected in the mild and hesitant regulations, which act as a symbol of the new formation of the city, of the nineteenth century, an “era of regulations”, and in the newly-established commissions and decisions of the municipalities. Following these developments, the plan of Istanbul by the French urban planner Henri Prost, considered to be the most important reference point, was drawn up in 1936; this plan played a significant role in the formation of contemporary Istanbul’s character. After the Prost era, the most important stage in the political decision mechanism that realized these developments, hybrid solutions and city-planning was that which took place during the era of Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. Just as in the nineteenth century, the Adnan Menderes period is open to evaluations made according to diverse theoretical frameworks; this is a period of great developments. In a way the clearest basis for planning in 2014 is the Menderes period. After all these events, an extremely complicated period began during which regional plans were drawn up as part of the zoning plans, when metropolitan planning proposals were made and master plans were created.
It is only after one summarizes the planning activities and zoning problems of the determining factors of Istanbul’s urban space that were carried out during the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth century that it becomes more meaningful to speak of Istanbul architecture during the Republican period. The reason for this is that these critical planning decisions were the basis of architectural forms of production and complex political positioning during the Republican period. In the process, which took place between the 1920s and the 1940s, the boulevards, squares and the parks that were opened in line with the approaches of the administrative staff of the Republic provide the political and architectural background of the urban scene. Emerging in this direction again, entertainment structures, as well as cultural and educational structures that appear in the literature as part of the general architectural historiography form the main stages of the crystallization of the landscape. Additionally, the industrial, commercial and public buildings which emerged as a result of new administrative and financial relationships that were established with worldwide trends and the architectural responses to the housing demand form the cornerstones of this 20-year process. In the period that lasts from the 1950s until the 1970s, Istanbul was growing rapidly and was confronted by more complicated and novel situations. Architectural activity has continued in this manner. The economic and political relations that were established between 1980 and 2010 have started to change once again; the architectural appearance of the city has begun to transform again. “Istanbul” now refers to a global metropolis that is integrated with the world. Business centers and shopping malls are the new image and face of the city. On the one hand, building complexes and luxury settlements are being built while the new housing demands of a city with a population of 14,160,467 people (according to the latest data from the Turkish Statistical Institute) are being met in various ways. In brief, these responses are provided via TOKI, the leading housing institution. Construction companies, small construction investors, contractors and urban transformation projects have become the indispensable architectural solutions of the post-capitalist system in Turkey. In the recent history of Istanbul it seems difficult to reduce the establishment of a connection with tradition to one or more sub-topics in such a pluralistic architectural environment. These goals, which stand out within architectural activity in the last three decades, are complicated and seem difficult to analyze. The only criteria used during the evaluation process are the attitude and style of the author.
There can be no doubt that the architecture of Istanbul, which is an ancient city and metropolis, demonstrates various aspects that need comprehensive examination. We hope that the texts presented in this book, even if deficient or redundant in some way, will leave a pleasant resonance among the domes for which Istanbul is famed.