A transcontinental city straddled between Europe and Asia, standing head high with its economic and cultural history in the world and being the most popular tourist destination, Istanbul, Turkey is a great place to visit by Architects as it will be a feast for the eyes, with its diverse and historical architectural style. With a total population of around 15 million people, it is one of the world’s most populous cities and according to 2015 census; Istanbul turns out to be the world’s fifth most popular tourist destination.

The architecture of the city is a reflection of many influences and various empires ruled over the time, concluding into diversion of structures around the city. The city dwells sculptures, buildings, various functional structures which came from Byzantine, Genoese, Ottoman and modern Turkish sources. The city has many architecturally significant entities and it serves many mosques, churches, palaces and castles for the visit and has acquired a reputation for being a cultural and ethnic Hotpoint.

Istanbul is no disappointment to any architect or any tourist in general as it consists of beautiful architectural structures and beautiful viewpoints, serving everyone. Heading onto some of the famous structures from Istanbul that adds on to the beauty of city and knowledge of people.

1. AYA SOFYA

Aya Sofya also known to be Hagia Sophia is one of the renowned structures of Istanbul, Turkey and was built by a roman emperor from 325 to 330 C.E. Initially as proposed, Aya Sofya was built as a Christian church, a Cathedral of Constantinople (initial name of Istanbul). It was rebuilt under the rule of emperor Justinian the Great, after the destruction of the second church. Later on, the purpose of Aya Sofya was brought to test and changed, as it was converted into a mosque after the ottoman empire conquered Constantinople in 1453. It was the biggest cathedral and continued to be for a thousand years and more until Seville Cathedral was built. The beauty of Aya Sofya lies in the Summation of Islamic elements and Christian mosaics under a roof along with its beautiful architectural style. It is considered to be the best ethereal surviving example of Byzantine Architecture. The Aya Sofya is held high by 107 columns which, along with serving its purpose, add onto the beauty of structure. In 1935 Aya Sofya or Hagia Sophia was converted into a museum and was made open for the public to embrace its beauty and history.

15 PLACES IN ISTANBUL- AYA SOFYA

2. BLUE MOSQUE

Blue Mosque was constructed from 1609 to 1616 next to Aya Sofya, creating a history in the world of mosques in Istanbul, Turkey. The mosque stands with five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It keeps on functioning while serving a large number of tourist visitors along with the devotees. The architecture of Blue Mosque integrates some Byzantine Christian elements of Aya Sofya along with elements of traditional Islamic architecture, creating a building which was the greatest of the classical period. The interior of the mosque is made up of more than 20,000 handmade iznik style ceramic tiles. The tiles lined up at lower level are traditional in design whereas at gallery level the design becomes flamboyant. The interior of the higher level of blue mosque is dominated by blue paint. One of the most important elements of the mosque is the “Mihrab”. It is made of finely carved and sculptured marble with a stalactite niche and double inscriptive panel above it. The Mihrab is surrounded by many windows and the adjacent wall is of ceramic tiles. At the right side of Mihrab is the highly decorated and one of the important features, “Minber” or Pulprit. It is the place where the Imam stands and preaches. The mosque has been designed in such a manner, that if it is filled with utmost of crowd, still each and every person could see and hear the imam and his preaching clearly. To let the preaching be heard by all the devotees outside the mosque there are six minarets. Out of six, four minarets stand at the corners of the mosque and the other two stands at the end of forecourt. Each of the four minarets at the corners have three balconies with stalactite corbels while the other two have only two balconies. The mosque in its own is a world of beauty with its little beautiful elements contributing to it. All the decorations of mosque such as lamps covered of gold and gems and bowls of crystals balls and ostrich eggs were removed for the museums. The great tablets on the walls are inscribed with the names of the caliphs and verses from Quran. To keep up with the running beauty of the mosque series of renovations were announced to undertake back in 2016 and which are expected to be done by 2020.

15 PLACES IN INSTANBUL- BLUE MOSQUE

3. TOPKAPI PALACE

The Topkapi Palace was the main residence and administrative headquarter of the ottoman sultans in 15th century and now is a large museum in Istanbul, Turkey. The construction of Topkapi Palace began in 1459 and initially was called as “New Palace” to differentiate it from the Old Palace in Beyazit Square. The Palace is of Ottoman and Baroque architectural style, making it beautiful and adding onto its features. After the major earthquake in 1509 and after fire of 1665 the complex was expanded and several renovations took place over the years. The Palace complex consists of 4 main courtyards and many smaller buildings. In these, Female members of the Sultan’s family lived in the harem and the leading state officials including the Grand Vizier, held meetings in the Imperial Council Building. After 17th century, Topkapi Palace started losing its importance as the sultan of that period preferred to spend more time in other new palaces and later on moved to Dolmabahce Palace but topkapi retained some of its functions such as the imperial treasury, library and mint. By 3rd April of 1924 it was transcended into a museum by government and it is administered by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The palace complex consists of hundreds of rooms but only few most important rooms are accessible to the public today. The museum exhibits various important and historical features of the mosque which includes ottoman clothing, weapons, Armor, miniatures, religious relics and illuminated manuscripts like the Topkapi Manuscript. The complex upholds tough security for which Officials of the Ministry as well as Armed guards of the Turkish Military are appointed. The Topkapi Palace is part of the Historic areas of Istanbul which were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

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The Basilica Cistern is the largest cistern among all hundreds of ancient cisterns lying beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey. It was named as Basilica because it was located under a large public square on the first hill of Constantinople, The Stoa Basilica. This cathedral size cistern is an underground chamber of 9,800 square meter area with dimensions of 138 meters by 65 meters, and carries the capability of holding about 80,000 cubic meter of water. The ceiling is supported by 336 columns, each up to 9 meters high, and arranged in 12 rows with 28 columns each spaced at 5 meters. The capitals of these columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian style with some exceptions of doric styles with no engravings. As suggested by ancient texts, the tears on these columns symbolises tribute to the slave workers who died working for the construction of cistern. The load of cistern lies on the columns by means of the cross shaped vaults and round arches of its roof. Fifty two stone steps descend into the entrance of the Basilica Cistern and it is surrounded by a firebrick wall with the thickness of about 4 meters, coated with waterproofing mortar. This humongous cistern was of great use in its time and provided a water filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the first hill and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times. The cistern survived several destructions and went through several restorations as well. In the current scenario, it is kept with little water for the accessibility of the general public.

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One of the most ancient cisterns under the running city of Istanbul, Turkey is the Theodosius Cistern. It was built by a roman emperor Theodosius II between the time periods of 428 to 443 C.E., to store water. The Theodosius Cistern was used to store water from the Valens Aqueduct, the chief water supplying system of the Eastern Roman Capital of Constantinople. The Aqueduct was redistributed from its original supply to the Nymphaeum, the Baths of Zeuxippus and the Great Palace of Constantinople. This led to the construction of Theodosius Cistern. It covers an area of about 45 meters by 25 meters, and the roof of the cistern is held high by 32 marble columns also summing to the beauty of the cistern. The forest of columns reaches high up to 9 meters in height. This cistern is one of the best works that show how water civilization was developed in these lands before the Byzantine and Ottoman periods and how it was protected and enriched as technically and architecturally by the Ottoman Empire.

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6. FATIH MOSQUE

Fatih Mosque is an ottoman mosque in the fatih district of Istanbul, Turkey. It was constructed between the period of 1463 and 1470 on the site of the church of the Holy Apostles. The original mosque met with severe destruction in the1766 earthquake and was rebuilt with whole new set of designs in 1771. It stands as one of the largest examples of Turkish- Islamic architecture in Istanbul and represents an important stage in the development of classic Turkish Architecture. The original Fatih mosque had one central dome supported by a single semi dome of the same dimensions and suspended on the four arches. The dome was of 26 meters but after the earthquake of 1766 the second mosque was built on a square plan. It had one central dome being supported by four semi domes. The courtyard, main entrance portal and lower portions of the minarets were kept from the original construction, with the remainder consisting of the 1771 Baroque reconstruction. The calligraphy within the reconstructed mosque and the mimbar, exhibit a Baroque influence on the structure yet the use of white tiles around the mosque is of inferior quality. The Fatih Mosque was designed as a complex with adjacent structures to service both religious and cultural needs.

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7. ISTANBUL ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUMS

Incredibly well known Istanbul Archaeological Museum consists of three archaeological museums located in Eminonu district of Istanbul, Turkey. It was established in 13 June 1891 and exhibits more than a million objects of all eras and civilization in the world history. The three museums of Istanbul Archaeology museums are – Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Ancient Orient, and the Museum of Islamic Art. The incoming modern thoughts through westernizing ideas from education and travel brought up the proposal of a Museum. It is one of the protruding structures of Istanbul standing high in Neoclassical Style. The museum of the ancient orient was proposed to be a fine art school in 1883 yet recognised and opened in 1935. The intricate façade of the main building was inspired by the Alexander Sarcophagus and sarcophagus of the mourning women which are both placed inside the museum. The museum exhibits a huge collection of Turkish Hellenistic and Roman artifacts most of which are gathered from the vast former territories of the Ottoman Empire.

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8. DOLMABAHCE PALACE

Greatness of Constantinople located in the Besiktas district of Istanbul, Turkey served as the main administrative centre of ottoman empire from 1856 to 1887 and then from 1909 to 1922. Its construction period went from 1843 to 1856 serving blend of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical architectural styles along with traditional ottoman architecture. The palace was constructed as a residence for the Sultan and his family before which they lived in Topkapi Palace which didn’t stand up to the style, luxury and comfort of the palaces of European monarchs. Largest Palace in the whole Turkey is the Dolmabahce Palace with the area of 45,000 square meters. It consists of 285 rooms, 46 halls, 6 baths and 68 toilets adding onto its greatness. The extreme influence of European style is clearly visible in the planning as well as the décor of palace along with ottoman culture and art. Heavy handed ornamentation can be seen throughout the palace. 14 tons of gold was used to gild the ceilings. World’s largest “Bohemian Crystal Chandelier” is in the ceremonial hall; it has 750 lamps over it and weighs 4.5 tons. This Palace holds the largest collection of Bohemian Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world. To add on to the beauty of the palace, expensive stones such as marmara marble, Egyptian alabaster and porphyry from Pergamon were used for the decoration.

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9. EYUP SULTAN MOSQUE

Eyup Sultan Mosque is one of the prestigious mosques of Istanbul, Turkey situated in Eyup district. The construction of the mosque was completed in 1458 but by the end of 18th century, the mosque was utterly damaged and was all ruined, perhaps as a result of the earthquake. In 1798 Sultan Selim III brought in the order of rebuilding the whole structure which was then completed by 1800, other than the minarets. The mosque was the honourable site for the coronation ceremony of the ottoman sultans and the new sultans were girded with the sword of Osman. The attraction of the site is the wall of the mausoleum facing the mosque, and has numerous panels of contrasting iznik tiles. The tiles were from different eras and were used for decoration during the reconstruction of the mosque in 1798 to 1799.

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10. MIHRIMAH SULTAN MOSQUE

Mihrimah Sultan Mosque, a prominent landmark of Istanbul, Turkey is situated in Edirnekapi neighbourhood is a 16th century ottoman mosque. It is situated on the peak of the sixth hill near the highest point of the city. The construction started in 1563 and was completed by 1570 but the structure met through several destructions due to earthquakes and couldn’t withstand them. In 1719 some of the stairs of minarets were damaged, by 1766 the whole minaret and the dome collapsed leading to destruction of whole mosque. Efforts were put to restore the mosque but yet again by 1999 the dome was damaged and was again restored from 2007 to 2010. The huge dome is 20 meters in diameter and is 37 meters in height. Most of the surface area of the mosque is covered by the windows, leading to be the brightest of the structure built by the Sinan, the architect of Mihrimah Sultan Mosque. Some of the windows have art on it, leading to stained glasses. The interior of the mosque is in modern style of decoration. The mosque consist of a “kulliye”, a complex which includes double hamman (Turkish public bath), a turb that is a tomb and a low row of shops under the terrace upon which the mosque was built, its rent is used for financial funding of the mosque complex.

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Devika Vijay Kumar
Author

With a very charming personality and great dedication towards writing this South Indian girl, Devika Vijay Kumar is an architecture student in Jaipur. She believes in expressing her thoughts simply rather than adding fancy synonyms to it. "Its better to get understood" is what she quotes. She shares some more interest in public speaking, acting and many more. She is a perfect blend of calmness and insane fun and finds a positive out put in any matter of life.

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