Architectural Styles of Turkey Ottomans to today

Turkish architecture can be divided into three main periods and styles at the simplest level.  Original, or Ottoman architecture is one period and it extended for hundreds of years until the early 1900’s.  The next period began with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and lasted until the end of the last century.  The final period and the most contemporary one is the current metamorphosis in Turkish architecture.  We should underline at this stage that construction industry makes up a significant part of overall Turkish economy and Turkish construction companies are some of the largest contractors in Russia, ex Soviet Republics and the Middle East.

Let’s take a general look at each period mentioned above.

Ottoman Yali villa Bosporus IstanbulOttoman Period of architecture

You’ve probably seen structures from the Ottoman period and would recognise them.  Many large mosques and palaces were built during this period and they are memorable for their tall pointed towers and spires and their common use of domes for main and outlying buildings.  The use of points often also extended to door and window casements.

Even more modern Ottoman office buildings will typically be topped with spires or other pointed toppings.  But, you’ll also notice that influences from other European styles including French, Italian and Russian will be notable, creating a bit of an architectural mixed bag.

Ottoman period interiors are also distinct.  They are often very tall and open and use copious amounts of windows to produce lots of natural light.  Because much of Ottoman style was steeped in the religion of Islam, notable interior elements also often reflect a religious base.  All mosques and most homes built during the Ottoman period will have a Mihrab.  This niche sculpted into a wall would ensure that all who visited or lived in a place knew which way to face for prayers.  

Mosques were always built including a Minbar, or pulpit.  From this tower-like raised podium, speakers could deliver the message of the day.

Suleymaniye mosqueInteriors of homes often had high ceilings and were adorned with multiple rugs and wall hangings as well as sometimes having very ornate tile walls.  Rooms often gave views or entry into elaborate private gardens or exposed timber balconies.

There were several famous architects of this period, including Mimar Sinan, a contemporary of Michelangelo.  Mr. Sinan was born Christian, but converted to Islam while serving in the military.  His design work began as the designer of forts and other fortifications as the chief of the Turkish artillery.  Over 300 mosques and other buildings were designed by Mr. Sinan, including the extraordinary Selimiye mosque in Edirne and the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul.

Traditional Ottoman house interiorSafranbolu houses in Turkey

After the fall of the Empire

The next period is a hot mess, probably demonstrating the combination of global political instability and an increasing focus on utility in architecture.  Most buildings and homes were built for function and there was little in the way of style or expression.  

Building exteriors were simple square and rectangle block structures with small windows and doors.  Domes and spires were not included, other than if a new mosque was being built.  Interior spaces were also simple, straight and functional.  

But, there is an old adage in real estate that says, “build it and they will come.”  With Turkey’s rise over the last 10 years into a politically stable, moderately liberal and economically thriving country, architects and designers from all parts of the world have flocked to the gateway nation.

This brings us to modern day or 21st Century contemporary Turkish architecture. 

The influx of talent is showing up in every corner of Turkey, from the biggest cities to the smallest fishing villages.  Luxury Villa on Turkish Aegean coastConsider the example of Richard Meier.  Mr. Meier is a globally recognised architect.  Some of his best known designs include the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, the Hague’s City Hall and Central Library, City Hall in San Jose, California and the Perry and Charles Street apartments in New York City.

But, Mr. Meier has also chosen to design and build a small 23 home community near Bodrum, Turkey.  Most of the homes are a contemporary design that includes pools, detached guesthouses and multiple levels.

Local talent is also bringing new style to Turkey.  Turkish native Eren Talu is designing amazing contemporary hotels, office buildings and perhaps a future stadium in and around Turkey.  The recently opened Adam and Eve Hotel, designed by Mr.Talu has been billed as the world’s “sexiest hotel” and claims the world’s biggest swimming pool.

But, new Turkish architecture isn’t just about style.  As the corridor for a majority of the world’s energy production, Turkey is in a unique position as a trend-setter for environmentally advanced building materials and designs.  In places such as southern Turkey’s Belen in Hatay province, windmills can be seen throughout the city.  But, more benign and less noticeable improvements include new construction swimming pools that don’t require environmentally unsafe chlorine treatments, recycled building materials and better use of natural light and airflow.  As much of Turkey has a very moderate climate, these improvements are another reason that Turkey is attracting so much attention from institutional and individual real estate investors.


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