Bridges between Antiquity and the New Turkish Architecture in the 19th Century

Zafer Sagdic
Bridges: Mathematical Connections in Art, Music, and Science (2000)
Pages 387–394


From the beginning of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire went through a phase of intensive economic and socio-political transformation aimed at modernizing the old system. A series of social and institutional reforms based on the Western models, was attempted in order to re-structure the Ottoman Empire. One of the major areas where this transformation took place was the New Turkish Architecture. The term "New Turkish Architecture is used to describe the products of a movement which claimed to be a big step forward and which was predominant in the Turkish Architecture in the 19th century, especially during the reigns of Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861), Sultan Abdulaziz (1861-1876), and Sultan Abdulhamid the 2 (1876-1909). Throughout the 19th century, it can be seen that architecture was dominated by Neo-classical features. In this period, archiects both of Muslim and non-Muslim origin, attempted to trigger a renewal movement through the use of mainly traditional Ottoman motifs. Thus, local elements were exploited within the frame-work of the trends and schemes current in Western architecture. These trends included certain principles previously tried out by the French "Beaux-Arts" school, and the Gothic style, which was adopted in many Western countries with a concern for national expression, and the Orientalist movement, which encouraged the adaptation of the traditional Ottoman motifs. Besides the fact that the new designs were in line with modern Western concepts, they expressed to be accepted in the eyes of the West (Usul-i Mimari-i Osmani contained theoretical ideas and incorporated Ottoman Architecture in the context of the architecture of the civilised world, tracing its history back to antiquity. Traditional styles were approached with a reference to the Antiquity and they were subjected to new interpretations). Thus, some bridges between the Antiquity and New Turkish Architecture in the 19th century were established: These bridges included the integrations of the Antique Western architectural elements were seen/identified in the Traditional Turkish Architecture; but nature and historical elements were maintained in local practices. It can be said that with the use of elements from the antiquity the New Turkish Architecture was re-structured in the name of modernism and transformed as a whole in the eyes of a European-centered history of theory and style.