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Chapter 4 Architecture

by Jordan Murphy

Turkey has some of the world’s most notable architectural sites. From the ancient ruins of Çatalhöyük to post-modern buildings, there is always something of architectural interest to see in Turkey. Some of the most significant ancient architectural sites in the world are found in modern-day Turkey. Çatalhöyük, for example, possesses some of the earliest known buildings of permanent settlement. Innovation continued to put Turkey on the map in the architectural realm with wonders such as the Hagia Sophia.

Image of the Hagia Sophia
Image of the Hagia Sophia. Picture taken by Osvaldo Gago. Source: Wikimedia Commons. CC 3.0

In the year 537 CE, the Hagia Sophia became what some consider to be the pinnacle of architecture at the time. The city of Constantinople (known as Istanbul today), was the location of the church, and the center of the relatively new state religion of Christianity. The resplendent building remained a church until 1453 when Mehmet the Conqueror converted it into a mosque; today it is a museum. Minarets were added later to help it conform to the style of other mosques being built around the Islamic world. Inside the mosque is ornate, featuring mosaics, and aniconic artwork that was added later by the Ottomans. The names of the Prophet, Allah, and others were placed near the top of the central dome. The inside is made of stone and brick; the building itself is comprised of the famous domes and arches of Byzantine architecture. The Hagia Sophia became a source of inspiration around the world.

Architecture in the Ottoman Empire cannot be mentioned without introducing the most famous and prolific architect in Turkish history, Mimar Sinan (“Architect Sinan”). He lived and worked in the 16th century and is credited with over 300 structures, his two most famous sites being the Şehzade Mosque and the Süleymaniye Mosque, both in Istanbul. The Süleymaniye Mosque became Mimar Sinan’s career-defining work. When looking at the mosque, it is almost identical in its proportions and style to the Hagia Sophia, which was his inspiration. . The inside of the mosque is filled with Iznik tiles as well as the aniconic art work that is found in all of Sinan’s work.

Image of Ataturk's Tomb in Ankara
Image of Ataturk’s Tomb in Ankara. Picture taken by Bahar101. Source: Wikimedia Commons. C.C.3.0

If modern architecture is more of your style, Turkey has much to offer in that area, as well. Head over to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, to see some great examples. Ankara was built like a Western city, with many of the buildings featuring German architectural elements. The wide streets and city organization are reminiscent of some major cities found in Europe and America. Ankara is also home to the final resting place of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, called Anıtkabir. This memorial center features modern architectural styles while at the same time echoing the form of the Greek Parthenon, with its imposing columns.

Image of mosque interior
Şakirin Mosque, Şakirin Cami 2 Istanbul Üsküdar, Designed by Turkish Architects, Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, Hüsrev Tayla, Flickr, CC 2.0 –

The Şakirin Mosque in Istanbul is both aesthetically pleasing and culturally relevant, combining tradition with modernity. Its lines are modern but it foregrounds Islamic requirements for mosque construction. Thus the mithrab niche, the minbar, and appropriate spaces for male and female worshippers are easily recognizable, while these elements are also appear fluid compared with the typical design. The main architect of the building, Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu, is the first woman to design and build a mosque in Turkey (Designboom). It is not surprising, then, that many of the design elements enhance the experience of the sacred building for women (Moustafa, 2013).

In Turkey, there is immense variety and richness when it comes to architecture. Whether in Istanbul viewing the Sultan Ahmet Mosque or the Hagia Sophia, or at Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara, surely visitors can find a place that will take their breath away. This chapter merely skimmed the surface, as there are many more wonders to behold across the map of Turkey.



Works Cited

“Home” Hagia Sophia Museum |,

Luksa, Dominik. “The Site.” Catalhoyuk Research Project, 25 Jan. 2016,

“Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism.” Ministry of Culture and Tourism,

“Turkish Culture” Turkish Culture Portal, Accessed 24 Sept. 2017

Research paper with description:

Interview with Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu

interview with zeynep fadillioglu, first woman to design a mosque in turkey


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