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One Friday in August this year, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, knelt afore the qibla – an bizarre alcove pointing appear Mecca – in the Yildiz Hamidiye Mosque, to mark its airy reopening afterwards restoration. This abundantly proportioned, T-shaped architectonics stands alfresco the gates of the abounding alcazar circuitous from which it takes its name; ‘Yildiz’ acceptation star, the suffix ‘Hamidiye’ actuality a advertence to Abdulhamid II, the Sultan-Caliph for whom it was built.
The account of Turkey’s accepted admiral for the Ottoman Authority is able-bodied known, and his application in advancement ability has been compared to that of Abdulhamid, who dodged democrats, ambitious assassins, and acquisitive European admiral for 33 years afore assuredly accedence to a aggressive accomplishment in 1909. But in the accent that Erdogan delivered afterwards finishing prayers, he about mentioned the mosque, and the absolutist not at all. Instead, accepting delivered one of his accepted broadsides adjoin agnostic foreigners, he acquainted a bigger and added awe-inspiring mosque, his mosque, the colossal minarets of which were afresh erected on a acclaimed old acropolis on the adverse coffer of the Bosporus. The new Camlica Mosque, he promised, would be the country’s ‘number one’, conceivably alike eclipsing the all-inclusive account of Ottoman religious architecture.
That Erdogan should be added captivated in talking up his abbey than that of an beforehand Turkish adjudicator is conceivably not surprising, but there is added to this than aggressive preening. The Camlica Abbey is a huge box captivated to a colonnaded courtyard; on top of the box, domes and half-domes army about a broad axial arch baffled by a golden, crescent-shaped finial. Everyone in Turkey knows what this means: it is a admiration in concrete, steel, and no agnosticism a abundant abounding abiding polymers, to Mimar (literally ‘architect’) Sinan, arch artist of the Ottoman classical age.
Eighty per cent complete, Camlica stares presumptuously at the best arresting of Sinan’s Istanbul creations, on the Thracian bank of the Aureate Horn. Named afterwards Suleyman the Magnificent, who reigned amid 1520 and 1566, the Suleymaniye shows off Sinan’s allowance for creating huge but articular domed spaces – afterwards he had captivated all he could from the Byzantines who had formed the burghal aback it was Constantinople. As a attribute of Turkish ability in its complete form, the contour of an authoritative Sinan abbey is unbeatable.
There is arguably no fiber of anticipation and adroitness bond Sinan and the architects of Camlica; the closing is automated and its use of accurate has relegated Sinan’s structural accessories – the dome-clusters, for example, that he acclimated to broadcast the bottomward advance of the basic arch – to bald ornament. But it is Camlica that stands the taller (in allotment acknowledgment to the hill) and it boasts six minarets to the Suleymaniye’s four. Aback it is absolutely operational, about the end of 2018, it will accept allowance for about 37,000 worshippers and will provide, in accession to libraries and appointment rooms, absurd retail.
One can accept why Turkey’s religious nationalists, gluttonous a new aureate age, should attending to the 16th century, aback the authority disqualified abundant of the apple and the aggregate of mosque, religious school, and caravanserai formed an architectural leash that was exported to the Balkans and the Levant. Ever aback the accepted awakening of mosque-building got underway in the 1990s, Sinan’s box and arch archetypal has enjoyed a stylistic monopoly. Dumpy little versions accept gone up about the country, their domelets covered by abominable rain-resistant, zinc-plate coating, and the minarets aloof for appearance (nowadays the muezzin is an iTunes download).
In the 1990s, Turkey’s cardinal enactment was bedeviled by secularists who rubbished the ‘backward’ Ottoman Authority and banned of the new mosques. These secularists were followers of the artist of the avant-garde Turkish Republic, the hard-drinking positivist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But aback Erdogan and his Islamists came to ability in 2002 the adverse appearance has gradually prevailed. Nowadays he and his ministers abuse Ataturk and nostalgically anamnesis Ottoman aggressive might. Friday prayers are de rigueur, and adopted action is periodically – if not consistently auspiciously – refocused at re-establishing Turkish access in above Ottoman lands.
There has been a awakening of ‘soft’ Ottomanism, from the accessory ewers, encrusted mirrors, and chased Ottoman candlesticks produced by the home-decoration behemothic Pasabahce, to the accession of Ottoman specialities such as almond and absurd soup on to restaurant menus. Aback 2006 Istanbul has played host to an anniversary tulip anniversary (tulip aberration captivated the Ottoman affable classes for a aeon in the 18th century), while kutnu, ‘palace cloth,’ a alloy of cottony and cotton, abstracts in the collections of appearance designers such as Bora Aksu. And now, in the Camlica mosque, which looms over the access to the Bosporus, arresting from afar around, Sinan revivalism has become as important as Sinan himself.
Which brings us aback to the eclectic, un-cavernous Hamidiye on the added ancillary of the straits. It has been restored, but the cardinal classes do not adulation it, and its visitors will mostly be tourists. Hamidiye reflects a absolutely altered Ottoman absoluteness to Camlica and the Suleymaniye. The authority beneath Abdulhamid was mired in debt and backward Ottoman ability was advance through with Western fashions – from collars and table amenities to novels and socialism. Atop this brittle architectonics sat a absolutist who rarely ventured from his alcazar for abhorrence of assassination; so, rather than cantankerous the Aureate Horn to the abundant authoritative mosques, as his predecessors had done, Abdulhamid congenital one nearer to home. The Hamidiye was the clandestine activity of this antisocial absolutist and abecedarian cabinet-maker; its latticed bay windows and the board roundels amid the clerestory windows are his own work.
Between 1886, aback the Hamidiye was finished, and 1909, the sultan’s account trips from alcazar aboideau to abbey and aback afresh were about his sole accessible appearances. Each Friday the soldiers lining the 50-yard avenue in their red fezzes alleged ‘Long Live our King!’, the muezzin sang out the alarm to prayer, and the adopted ambassadors in abounding dress scrutinised his appearance as he sat in the casual victoria for signs of stress. And assassins plotted; in 1905 a able bomb timed for his avenue from Friday prayers exploded while he was still in the mosque, killing 28 people.
The clandestine abbey of the absolutist of Islam wasn’t congenital by a Muslim, but by the Armenian Christian Sarkis Balyan, a affiliate of a ancestors of cloister architects . The Balyans knew Western fashions and the ancestry of Constantinople alike; actuality is a abbey with Gothic Awakening windows evocative of Horace Walpole’s abode at Strawberry Hill, while the lantern arch (made of wood) is acutely of Byzantine inspiration. With its lobed arches, muqarnas, or honeycomb, decoration, and blue, yellow, and red colour scheme, the balmy autogenous alcove was afflicted by the 19th-century European approach for Moorish Spain. The Hamidiye’s dejected dome, blood-soaked with stars, has been compared to that of the Wilhelma Alcazar in Stuttgart. Delightful admitting it is, the Hamidiye is neither ample nor stridently Turkish; it doesn’t beat abounding avant-garde Islamo-nationalist boxes.
Another another to neo-Ottomanism is to bung abroad the old cant of mosque-building altogether. This is clearly what Behruz and Can Cinici acquainted in the backward 1980s aback this ancestor and son architectural aggregation congenital a abbey for the assembly in Ankara. Ataturk had conceived his new basic on the Anatolian steppe as the antipode of authoritative Istanbul – rational, ascetic and advantageous – and the Austrian artist Clemens Holzmeister congenital a circuitous of aldermanic barrio that was all these things. Abounding Turkish Islamists saw in the Cinicis’ afterwards accession a quintessentially Kemalist acknowledgment to blackballed piety: a abbey that looked like annihilation but a mosque, and absolutely not a Sinan mosque.
When I was a announcer in Ankara in the backward 1990s, I would generally appointment this serene and adapted architectonics afterwards visiting associates of parliament. Ranged forth one ancillary of a bank courtyard, its stepped roofline ascent like a ziggurat, it looks angelic but not decidedly Islamic. Entering the building, which is advanced but shallow, one is afraid to acquisition the autogenous abounding by ablaze entering from windows cut into the accomplish of the pyramid, while the comedy of accurate cut-ins creates a affectionate of muqarnas en brut. The abbey is backed by a bottle qibla bank attractive on to a alveolate garden, while the imam’s belvedere has sprouted into a full-length, cellophane kiosk, activated by modernist decrepit glass. Added innovations accommodate the abreast abolishment of any accessible analysis amid macho and changeable adoration areas (just a low belvedere for the women). I was already told that I could access with my shoes on, an complete anathema in added mosques.
Even afore the abbey was built, the Cinicis were pestered with demands for a arch and a minaret. Behruz Cinici would reply, conceivably a little mischievously, that minarets were in actuality an addition acquired from Christian clock-towers in the Levant, and ‘counter to our religion’. At breadth a accommodation was found: a alpine cypress, buried amid the abbey and adjoining library. In 1995 the Aga Khan’s foundation awarded the Cinicis its coveted architectonics prize.
Precisely because of its admirable qualities of aftertaste and restraint, the Cinicis’ abbey is actively out of footfall with the neo-Ottomanism of the Erdogan regime. Its approaching is now beneath catechism in the after-effects of the accomplishment advance of 15 July 2016, in which the president’s activity was threatened, but which in the end led to a billow in his popularity. One of the best abominable episodes of 15 July was the aeriform advance that the putschists launched on the assembly architectonics – F-16s agreeable aerial and rockets slamming into the home of Turkish democracy. Aback I visited a few weeks later, genitalia of Holzmeister’s assembly architectonics were all bent stanchions and burst stone.
In the advance of the advance on the assembly a accessible relations office, additionally advised by the Cinicis, was damaged and has aback been broken down. This has led to worries on the allotment of Turkey’s abbreviating but nonetheless articulate secularists that their abbey will additionally be begin to accept abiding ‘damage’, paving the way for its demolition. A acknowledged attack by arresting architects to accept the abbey declared a cultural asset has been taken to address by the Ability Ministry; the case is now afore the accomplished authoritative cloister in the land. ‘They clearly appetite to breach bottomward an award-winning abbey and alter it with a affected one,’ the arch of Ankara’s alcove of architects said recently. Catch it while you can.
From the November affair of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.
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