Westernization and the Role of Foreign Architects in 19th Century
Otooman Architecture, Ayse Nasir
Ottoman Empire reached her widest
borders at the end of the 16th century and a long period of
regression began with 17th century. With the Treaty of Karlowitz
(1699) following the defeat at Vienna, Ottoman Empire conceived the
Europe as a force to be contended. At this point Ottoman authorities
accused the Ottoman army as the sole cause of the defeats. After
this date early efforts were made to examine the causes of European
military superiority and reforms based on European models were
applied to Ottoman military forces, however; the most important
cause of the regression was the failure of the Ottoman social
structure against the Western capitalist social structure. As
economic power also meant political power in capitalism, the Ottoman
system with central administration left the mercantile and
industrial activities to the monopoly of the Christian minorities
who could never be a threat to the throne compared to the Muslims
On the other hand, the land of the Ottoman Empire was an attractive
area for the industrialized countries struggling for economical
superiority. Ottoman lands had large raw material sources, large
marketing opportunities and strategic geo-political characteristics.
From this point of view, the Ottoman Westernization can be regarded
as the Eastern policy of the capitalist West European countries
which aimed to increase the economical dependency of the Ottoman
Empire. The British Trade Agreement in 1838 which led the
proclamation of Tanzimat / Reform in 1839 is considered to mark the
introduction of the Ottoman economy to the capitalist Western world
(2). While these reforms had been generated by internal forces,
Western powers, notably England and France, also took an active
interest in the implementation of the reform program. For example
after the Crimean War in 1856, the conditions of further reforms
were dictated by the British and French ambassadors in Istanbul and
these conditions were also implemented to the agenda of the Paris
Continuous contact with European
products and customs created a new taste in the Ottoman mentality
and life style. Life styles of the foreign embassies in Istanbul and
the impressions of the Ottoman ambassadors sent to the European
capitals beginning with the reign of Selim III (1789-1807)
introduced the Western life style to the Ottoman bourgeoisie. New
schools were founded with European curricula and new Ottoman élite
graduated from these local schools and also from European schools,
preferred Western styled furniture and decoration in their houses.
experts from Europe were initially employed to renovate the Ottoman
Army, producing cultural as well as the technical influences. For
example as a result of the cultural impact of these foreign
influences, some graduates of the military schools became painters
presenting the Western painting techniques in their work. Thus as
early as the first half of the 18th century, experts for military
renovation were commissioned and military education was modified.
During the 18th century France was the source of the technical
support and experts but by the beginning of the 19th century Ottoman
authorities preferred Prussian and Austrian experts as a result of
tense diplomatic relations with France. Naturally these experts
formed direct links with the West.
Initial attempts at training the
Ottoman architects in contemporary building techniques and European
styles were made in 1801, at the new Imperial College of Military
Engineering. The first foreign instructor commissioned to teach
young Muslim architects was probably the British architect, W.J.
Smith (4). However a full curriculum of architectural education was
established only with the foundation of the School of Fine Arts (Mekteb-i
Sanayi-i Nefise) in 1883 according to the model of École des Beaux
Arts. Western influences were not only observed in the architectural
education but also in the municipal organization of the capital
Istanbul. Istanbul Municipality was reorganized according to the
French "prefecture de la ville" system for the requirements of the
allied forces who used the city as headquarters during the Crimean
effects of Westernization upon the Ottoman Architecture commenced
with the changes seen in applied decoration, after the 1720's. In
1721, an ambassador was sent to Paris to study French civilization
and prepare a report. The ambassador also brought back a plan of the
Fontainebleau Palace (5). The same decade witnessed a fleeting
interest among the high officers of Ottoman State and well-to-do
families of Istanbul to the French-style decoration, furniture and
gardens. In this period (1721-1740), Ottoman architects
reinterpreted Western influences on the Ottoman manner. Towards the
end of the 18th century, spatial and massive change in the forms of
classical Ottoman Architecture other than decorative baroque and
rococo shapes already revealed a different approach in design.
Nuruosmaniye Mosque due to its architectonic features can be
regarded as the first baroque example in the Ottoman Architecture.
Throughout the 19th century Western influences brought a total
change in style. Melling who was asked to design a palace for Hatice
Sultan was the first foreign architect in the Ottoman Empire (6).
Melling's design was the first example of eclecticism in the Empire
and the Ottoman court acted as a pioneer in the introduction of this
European style into the Ottoman Architecture.
During the Tanzimat period the
neo-classical style prevailed in the West became popular in Istanbul
in large buildings such as military barracks and palaces. The
neo-classical style was first introduced by various European
architects and military engineers who had been recruited to design
various edifices for the requirements of the modified Ottoman army
following European models. The various members of the Imperial Guild
of Ottoman Architects who were trained the traditional building for
techniques failed to meet the new design requirements. Court
architects were also being replaced by Ottoman architects from
Christian minority and by European architects who were better
equipped to cope with the complex spatial demands of the sultans
the foreign architects who worked in Tanzimat period the British
architect W.J. Smith and the Swiss architect Gaspare T.Fossati were
in the forefront due to their comissions. W.J. Smith who came to
Istanbul for the construction of the British embassy (Pera House),
lived in Istanbul between 1841-1856. He did not work only for the
British community but was also commissioner by Sultan Abdulmecit to
design the large scale edifice such military barracks (Mecidiye and
Selimiye Kislasi) and military hospital at Gumussuyu
(7). He worked not only for the public buildings but for the
Sultan himself as well. For British critics, the imperial kiosk at
Tophane, designed for the Sultan in 1853, represented a fascinating
attempt by Turks to speak as modern Europeans (8). G.T. Fossati who
came to Istanbul to build the Russian embassy, was commissioned by
Sultan Abdulmecit after the success of his work at this building.
Major works of Fossati were military hospital in Beyazit (1843), the
university building (Darulfunun, 1845-1863) erected between Hagia
Sophia and the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, the archive building in Sublime
Porte (1847-1848) and restoration of Hagia Sophia (1846-1849).
Fossati also worked for the Ottoman élites in Istanbul. Both Smith
and Fossati represented neo-classicism tending the form of the Greek
revival in their works.
During the reign of Abdulaziz
(1861-1876) two Italian architects were commissioned for
architectural activities. Barborini and his French assistant Leon
Parville were appointed to design Ottoman pavilion at the Paris
Exhibition of 1867 (9). Barborini was also the member of the
building committee for municipality in Istanbul (10). Another
Italian architect Montani prepared the book titled "Usul-u Mimari
Osmani / Method of Ottoman Architecture" (L'Architecture Ottomane)
upon imperial command for the 1873 Vienna Universal Exposition with
collaboration Barborini. Montani also built Valide Mosque, which is
considered one of the pioneers of Ottoman revivalism.
the reign of Abdulhamit II (1876-1908) foreign architects began to
be commissioned for major works and chosen as the court architects.
Istanbul-born French architect A. Vallaury and German architect
Jachmund sent to Istanbul by the imperial German government to study
the history of Ottoman architecture, shaped the new Ottoman Imperial
Architecture (11). They synthesized neo-classical forms and elements
borrowed from Ottoman or Islamic architectures on the facades of
their buildings to find harmony with the existing environment. Major
commissions of Vallaury were School of Fine Arts (1882), Imperial
Archeological Museum (1891-1907),
Ottoman Bank at Galata (1890), building for the Ottoman Public Debt
Administration (Duyun-u Umumiye Idaresi, 1899-1900), Imperial
College of Military Medicine (Mekteb-i Tibbiye-i Sahane, 1895-1900,
with the collaboration of R. d'Aronco). Vallaury was also employed
as the chief instructor at the School of Fine Arts. The other more
influential architect of the period, Professor Jachmund, who was
appointed as an instructor at the new School of Civil Engineering (Hendese-i
Mulkiye Mektebi), was commissioned to design and build the Sirkeci
Railroad Terminal (terminal for the Orient Express 1890).
Jachmund's and Vallaury's designs for Istanbul exhibited a duality.
When they designed for the Ottoman government they tried to produce
a synthesis of the neo-classic forms and Ottoman or Islamic
architectural elements. When they worked for foreign enterprises
their design exhibited pure European-styles. Jachmund's Deutsche
Orient Bank designed in a central European-style with
neo-renaissance mass, and Vallury's building for the Ottoman Bank
and the Regie Cointeressee des Tabacs de L'Empire Ottoman designed
with a highly ornamented colossal neo-renaissance mass, are the best
examples which they built for the foreign establishments in
Among the other foreign architects
working in Istanbul at the end of the 19th century, the Italian
Art-Nouveau master Raimondo d'Aronco was the sole architect among
foreigners who had gained international reputation before he came to
Istanbul. R. d'Aronco's career in Istanbul commenced in 1893 with
the invitation of Abdulhamit II to prepare the National Ottoman
Exhibition. From 1896 until the establishment of second Turkish
Constitution in 1908, R. d'Aronco worked in the service of
Abdulhamit II, as an architect of State. In general, R. d'Aronco's
works in Istanbul do not reveal attachment to one specific
architectural style. An analytical survey of D'Aronco's works in the
Ottoman Empire furthermore, reveals that he responded positively to
the stimuli of the new cultural sphere he moved in (12). His
education in Venice, Academia di Belli Arti, where the ideas of
Camillo Bioto were dominant in design classes, had taught him, how
to combine existing environment with other sources. While living in
Graz at fourteen, he had also found the chance to follow the
Austrian Secession more closely than most of his compatriots.
Consequently the origins of Art-Nouveau in Istanbul are rightly
attributed to D'Aronco.
D'Aronco designed and built a large
number of buildings of various types in Istanbul. The stylistic
features of his works in Istanbul can be classified in three groups:
Revivalism, reinterpretation of the Ottoman forms, Art-Nouveau and
Secession. Some of his works in Istanbul are: Yildiz Palace
pavilions and the Yildiz Ceramic Factory (1893-1907), the Janissary
Museum and the Ministry of Agriculture (1898), Casa Botter
(1900-1901), the fountain of Abdulhamit II (1901), Karakoy Mosque
(1903), the mausoleum for the African religious leader Sheikh Zafir
(1905-1906), tomb within the cemetery of Fatih Mosque (1905), Cemil
Bey House at Kirecburnu (1905), summer residence for the Italian
embassy (1905), clock tower for the Hamidiye-i Etfal Hospital
(1906), Huber residence (1906)...
the mid of the 19th century the major monuments, religious and
social complexes which are called "kulliye" were concentrated on the
Istanbul peninsula. By this time northern side of the city, the
recently developed quarters Galata and Pera, Besiktas, Ortakoy,
Sisli were favorite locations for the new constructions.
Foreign architects introduced new
building types and new architectural styles to the Ottoman capital.
Classical revivalism, Gothic revivalism and Islamic revivalism (or
Orientalism) were the variations of the European eclecticism which
was prevalent in the works of the foreigners in Istanbul. Another
European architectural style which was introduced by the foreign
architects was Art Nouveau. Architectural pluralism in 19th
century-Istanbul observed on the facades of the new building types
such as banks, office buildings, hotels, multistory houses, theaters
etc., created opposition against the foreigner architects among
The nationalist movements among the
Balkans which caused the loss of the Balkan lands ignited Turkish
nationalism. The ideas of sociologist Ziya Gokalp, who was the
leading figure of the Turkish nationalism influenced the young
Turkish architects. According to Gokalp, as to be modern, Turks
should follow European civilization without losing values concerning
identity and religion (13). Under the leadership of two young
architects, Vedat and Kemalettin Bey, Turkish architects searched
new style which was appropriate for modernization of the Ottoman
architecture. This new style which dominated the beginning of 20th
century-Turkish Architecture is known as the First National Style.
1. E. Kongar, Imparatorluktan Gunumuze Turkiye'nin Toplumsal Yapisi
/ Social Structure of Turkey From Empire Till Today, Istanbul 1985,
2. Y.S. Tezel, Cumhuriyet Doneminin Iktisadi Tarihi / Economic
History of the Period of Republic (1923-1950), Ankara 1982, pp.
62-82, E.C. Clark, "The Ottoman Industrial Revolution",
International Journal of Middle East Studies, 5/1974.
3. B. Lewis, Modern Turkiyenin Dogusu / Rise of Modern Turkey,
Ankara 1984, p.116 (B. Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, Oxford
University Press 1961), E.Z. Karal, Osmanli Tarihi / Ottoman
History, V, Ankara 1983, pp. 248-250.
4. A. Nasir, Foreign Architects in Turkish Architecture, unpublished
Ph.D. thesis, Technical University of Istanbul, 1991, p.104.
5. S. Rado, Yirmisekiz Mehmet Celebi'nin Fransa Seyahatnamesi / Book
of Travel of Mehmet Celebi XXVIII to Paris, Istanbul 1970.
6. Barbie du Bocage, Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et du
Bosphore d'apres les dessins de M. Melling, Paris 1819, pp. 220-222,
Melling, Voyage Pittoresque de Constantinople et des rives du
Bosphore d'apres les dessins de M. Melling, Paris 1809, A. Arel,
Onsekizinci Yuzyil Istanbul Mimarisinde Batililasma Sureci /
Westernization Process of Architecture of Istanbul in the 18th
Century, 1975, p.93, H. Sehsuvaroglu, Istanbul Saraylari / Palaces
of Istanbul, Istanbul, 1954, p.32.
7. A. Nasir, "Turk', pp. 48-57.
8. M. Crinson, Empire Building, Orientalism & Victorian
Architecture, London 1996, p.134, Builder, September 6, 1862, pp.
631-632, and September 27, 1862, pp. 690-692.
9. A. Nasir, "Turk', p.67., "The Paris Exhibition of 1867", The
Levant Herald, January 10, 1867, "Turkey at Paris Exhibition", The
Levant Herald, February 19, 1867.
10. The Levant Herald, May 31, 1869.
11. A. Nasir, "Turk', pp. 70-81, Y. Yavuz, S. Ozkan, "The Final
Years of The Ottoman Empire", Modern Turkish Architecture, The
University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 36-40.
12. Z. Nayir, "Raimondo D'Aronco and Ottoman Revivalism", Atti del
Congresso Internazionale di Studi si Raimondo D'aronco e il suo
tempo, 1981, pp. 135-136.
13. Z. Gokalp, Turklesmek, Islamlasmak, Muasirlasmak / To Become
Turk, Muslim, Contemporary, Istanbul 1918.