Istanbul (1915-1922) / Urban Improvements of Istanbul & the rise of Ottoman Revivalism

Istanbul (1915-1922) / Urban Improvements of Istanbul & the rise of Ottoman Revivalism
Istanbul High School built in Ottoman Revivalism Style

Stepping from the monarchy of Ottoman Empire towards the Turkish republic, Istanbul experienced a growing pace of political reform in the 19th century. Nonetheless, the urban condition of Istanbul was still chaotic, over-crowded, poorly serviced and badly administered. Catastrophic fires occurred every few years and resulted in loss of thousands of timber buildings. The urban pattern of the city was majorly composed of narrow crooked streets and many of them were cul-de-sacs. On the other hand, there was a dramatic growth of population at that time due to the loss of territories of the Ottoman Empire. This put great pressure on the existing civil services especially the residential quarters. Hence, the residential fabric of the city was constantly rebuilt in order to accommodate the growth of inhabitants in the city.

 

The Dolmabahce Palace completed in 1856
The Dolmabahce Palace completed in 1856

Expansion of the Outter City

In response to the rapid expansion of the inner city, more and more military barracks and schools were constructed outside the city walls particularly in the Beyoglu district. This trend of outward expansion accelerated when the Sultan moved his Topkapi palace to the Dolmabahce Palace and mansions along the shore of the Bosphorus.

 

Istanbul High School built in Ottoman Revivalism Style
Istanbul High School built in Ottoman Revivalism Style

Emergence of Ottoman Revivalism

In the early twentieth century, one of the most notable developments was the emergence of Ottoman Revivalist architecture by two prominent Turkish architects, Vedat and Kemaleddin. Their architectural languages were greatly influenced by Ziya Gokalp, the founder of Turkish nationalism. In the dying years of the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Revivalism became the architectural style and enjoyed wide acceptance by the public citizens. A lot of public buildings such as post offices, ferry wharves and banks were built in this style. The Istanbul High School formerly the Ottoman Post Office was an example of the Ottoman Revivalist style. Some of the distinctive features of this architectural style included wide-roof overhangs, tiled ornamentations, muqarnas brackets and pointed arches.

 

Reference: Murat Gul and Trevor Howells (2013), Istanbul Architecture, Boorowa: The Watermark Press

2 Comments on “Istanbul (1915-1922) / Urban Improvements of Istanbul & the rise of Ottoman Revivalism

  1. It is a piece of very informative narrative and it certainly points out a lot of key characterises of the urban conditions of Istanbul. Somehow I could not find the ‘improvement’ as the title says. Also the time duration of the narrative is too long hence it is lack of the focus on certain period of time and the transition of the urban conditions becomes unclear.

  2. There are over half a century of interesting moments in these entries, which are all influential in themselves. There are two especially provocative strands in these entries, namely, the early modernization Ottoman Revivalist period, and the late modernization period of doubt, criticism, and conservation. However, to be able to go in depth better, it is best to focus only on one of the two. Identify a limited and well-defined event or a particular plan, with a study of its planners and the government surrounding its implementation. Indeed, one of the most powerful ideas about Istanbul took place between 1910s to 20s, as documented herein. It is critical to read and select the exact details, design processes, and transformative ideas of how past glories of the Ottoman Empire was re-rationalised for a modernization project. While the architectural stylistic details are important, it is arguably even more critical to identify the urban plans that had emerged because of a re-rationalization of its “classical” Ottoman past.

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