Incredible Ottoman Projects By Turan Şahin (Istanbul: Blue Dome Press, 2013. 127 pages (full color))

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Tammy Gaber



When the term Ottoman architecture is used, the immediate image that comes
to mind is that of the multitudes of mosque and religious buildings in Turkey
and the Ottoman Empire. One with a more in-depth knowledge of this field
may think of the prolific architect Sinan (d. 1588) and his hundreds of purpose-
built works. However, this is not another book on Ottoman mosques
and pious foundations, but rather a focused collection of the empire’s oftenoverlooked
civic works, some of which demonstrate engineering innovations
in design. The empire’s geographical proximity to Europe gradually caused
it to look westward for aspiration and engendered a palpable reflection of
European influence in those of its architectural and infrastructure designs
that were the result of commissioning European experts to keep Istanbul and
the empire abreast of the latest innovations.
This book is divided into thirty-five short sections, ranging from two to
fourteen pages each, that consider particular urban, architecture, or infrastructural
initiatives. Each section bears the name of the project in question, which
is amply illustrated with historical drawings (i.e., maps, urban plans, perspectives
rendered in watercolor, sections, and structural details), historical photographs,
and relevant textual documents. However, almost no attempt has
been made to connect them to each other or to a larger thesis. And despite the
introduction’s portrayal of a wealthy, powerful, and vast empire with imperial
investment in built innovations to improve the city, no indication is given as
to the variety and breadth of the projects to be covered.
An in-depth history of each one’s initiation is outlined, often revolving
around an enlightened Ottoman sultan or an equally enlightened and forwardthinking
European architect, urban planner, or engineer with occasional international
backing. The majority of these projects were never completed due to
such international crises as war, natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes), the lack ...

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