Turkey has historically been at a crossroads of cultures, especially concerning architecture. Due to its strategic location in the middle of both Asia and Europe, the Turkish area can display this fusion of cultures in a setting that is both livelier and more grandiose. Several design styles with unique traits have developed over time, resulting from their colourful past and varied people. The Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia, and Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara are just a few examples of the breathtaking sites that can be seen there.

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Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey_©www.dailysabah.com

Seljuk Architecture

Turks were nomadic people who modified their dome-shaped tents to fit their environment in their native Central Asia. Later, these tents had an impact on Turkish decorative arts and architecture. When the Seljuk Turks first arrived in Iran, they saw buildings that had been built using traditional methods. A particular architectural trend started when the Seljuk kingdom arrived in Turkey. Despite the variety of its cultural influences, the empire did a fantastic job adapting the architectural elements to the Turkish region. Numerous structures were built during this time, including tombs, mosques, medreses, hospitals, palaces, baths, and others. These structures are distinguished due to their uncomplicated formwork, simple design, and pleasing proportions. These buildings were mainly straightforward but included the idea of a Monumental Portal, an entryway embellished with striking, ornate adornment.

Large, exquisitely polished stone and brick blocks were used in Seljuk architecture, which is frequently referred to as “Poetry in Stone.” Relief work included a dramatic play of light and shadow. Muqarnas, minarets, domes, and Turkish triangles, triangular pendentives that support the dome, are typical architectural characteristics seen in structures. Eyvans, a three-sided walled chamber with a fourth side open to a vast internal courtyard, muqarnas, and other features, are also frequent.

The Ifte Minarelli Medrese in the province of Erzurum is an exquisite specimen of the style. For its manifestation, substantial formwork and resources are required. The use of muqarnas, the internal courtyard, and the elaborate brick and tile masonry were further noteworthy features. They can be divided into several groups using vaults and big mausoleums with dome-shaped entrances. The Ribati- Serif and the Ribati Anasirvan are two Seljuk caravanserais from the 12th century that are still standing. 

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Ifte Minareli Medrese_©https://tr.wikipedia.org

The Ottoman Architecture

The Ottoman era was when Turkish architecture reached its pinnacle. Ottoman architecture influenced by Seljuk, Byzantine, and Arab architectural influences evolved into its distinct style. From 1300 until 1453, known as the first or early Ottoman period, Ottoman art searched for new concepts. One of the minor Turkmen kingdoms (beyliks) that emerged when the Seljuq era in Anatolia came to an end about 1300 was the Ottoman Empire. The civilizations of all the beyliks were similar in many respects, but the Ottomans’ exceptional political and social ability allowed them to eventually strangle neighbouring kingdoms, capture the Balkans by force, grab Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, and control almost all of the Arab world by 1520. 

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Selimiye Mosque_©www.dailysabah.com
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Süleymaniye Mosque_©blog.radissonblu.com

Mimar Sinan, head of the public works division and a significant figure in Ottoman architecture, devised a set of guiding principles emphasizing simplicity, hierarchy, movement, and negative space to enhance the effect and impression of the architecture on the general public. Sinan designed the Sehzade Mosque, which was a big undertaking, while he was still in his apprenticeship. Its construction, which served as a tribute to the late crown prince, demonstrates a basic dependence on proportional formwork, a central design, and the use of Byzantine building materials.

The simplicity of the designs in the late 15th and 16th centuries is frequently attributed to the fact that Sinan and many other Ottoman architects first trained as military engineers. Everything in these buildings was designed to support a massive central dome. The cascading form of the building’s façade is created by descending half-domes, vaults, and ascending buttresses. The building’s exterior is framed by slender and many minarets, and the open space of the nearby courts keeps it from being overrun by the city. These Ottoman Empire architectural marvels appear to be the result of two major traditions, one of which had been an aesthetic and stylistic tradition unique to Istanbul since the building of the Byzantine church of Hagia Sophia in the sixth century, and the other of which was an Islamic tradition of domestic architecture dating from the tenth century.

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Hagia Sophia_©Shutterstock

Mosques and külliyes are the most well-known examples of Ottoman architecture, but notable secular structures were also constructed, such as baths and caravansaries, as well as the enormous palace complex of Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, which features intricate pavilions, halls, and fountains that date back 300 years to the Ottoman Empire’s rule.

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_Topkapi Saray Complex aerial view_©www.dailysabah.com
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Topkapi Saray_©www.musement.com

The Blue Mosque, known as the “Apple of Istanbul” and the last structure of the previous Ottoman Empire, was designed by Sedefkar Mehmed Agha. The interiors, despite their garish exteriors, have a heavenly sense that makes them ideal for religious meditation and prayer since they make use of symmetry and repetition, natural light, and luxurious interior design.

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Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey_©Shutterstock

The Ottoman Baroque Style

Ottoman Baroque refers to any Ottoman architecture from the 18th century that was influenced by Europe to represent the fluid growth of both Baroque and Rococo elements. However, it’s common knowledge that Ottoman Baroque architecture would be lavish, stunningly beautiful, and display a blend of Islamic and European adornment.

Sultan Ahmed III’s rule and that of his Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha in the early eighteenth century marked the beginning of the Ottoman Baroque. Together, they started the process of transforming the Ottoman Empire’s appearance. By financing a significant amount of artwork and building projects and using French architects and designers, the Ottoman aristocracy physically altered cities like Istanbul. They had an obsession with tulips, and for a time they surrounded themselves with tulips. Because of this, the first 60 years of Ottoman history are referred to as the “Tulip Period.” One of the earliest examples of Ottoman Baroque architecture constructed at this time was the “Sa’dabad” royal pavilion. Sa’dabad was built in 1722 as a luxurious retreat with a garden. The purpose of Rococo architecture, which was created for their unrestricted enjoyment, was for the aristocracy to interact, enjoy themselves, and exult. Sa’dabad fulfilled a similar function. 

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Sa’dabad Complex Green Palace_©apochi.com
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Sa’dabad Complex_©apochi.com
Sa’dabad Complex_©apochi.com

Christian art is the other wellspring of Ottoman architecture. Hagia Sophia, especially as it is depicted in Byzantine tradition, serves as a significant source of inspiration. The use of pendentive dome structures and the merging of stone and brick are two fundamental instances of Byzantine influences. Early Ottoman ties to Italy had a significant impact on art as well. As a result, numerous mosques in Bursa, Turkey, have outside façades, windows, gates, and roof designs that visually resemble elements of Italian architecture. Ottoman architecture was distinctive because it was influenced by both Islamic and European artistic traditions.


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‌Akbulut, M., Bayindirli, N., Cahill, M., Clark, A., Jordan, P., Mansour, M., Murphy, R., Posacioglu, K., Schoon, D.V., McClimans, M. and Acikalin, M. (2018). Chapter 4 Architecture. ohiostate.pressbooks.pub. [online] Available at: https://ohiostate.pressbooks.pub/windowsintoturkishculture/chapter/chapter-4/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2022].

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Shivani Jadhav, a Mumbai-based architect, is attempting to explore architecture through words. She is passionate about discovering new perspectives on structures and bringing them to life through her writing. Her experiment focuses on the social, cultural, and philosophical aspects of architecture.