Virtual Museum of the Princes' Islands

Islands Buildings Architects - From the Curator

Since time immemorial, the Princes’ Islands have had a special place among the other districts of Istanbul. During the Byzantium Era, there were tiny fishing villages along the shores. An indication of the Islands’ significance during that period was the number of monasteries where exiles were sent, including emperors, commandants and senior religious leaders whose eyes were blinded with a brand when they lost their authority. In the Ottoman Era, the Islands were no longer used for these purposes and life continued in the fishing villages and monasteries. Today, the best known architectural examples from the past are monasteries and churches. Unfortunately, neither the simple buildings nor the masonry buildings have survived. Although the establishment of the Naval Academy (Mekteb-i Fünûn-ı Bahriye-i Şahane) on Heybeliada in 1828 brought what is considered the first examples of housing to the Islands, real progress did not begin until the middle of the 19th century. With the establishment of regular ferry service from Istanbul in 1846, the non-Muslim, high-class Ottomans, who gained rights after the Rescript of Gülhane in 1839

and who began to live a life-style similar to the European bourgeoisie, were able to have easier access to the Islands in the summer. Within a short period, this group began to build both small and large mansions for their own use. The Royal Edict of Reform in 1856 provided more rights and a better lifestyle for non-Muslims. The Islands’ progress, in terms of housing, accelerated. Today, almost all of the buildings on the Islands are built from the middle of the 19th century onwards.

Even though when we speak on buildings of Island we refer to the large-scale mansions, we should not forget the other buildings, including churches, mosques, schools, hotels, clubs (ranging from religious to educational, sports to entertainment) as well as other facilities.

Is it possible to talk about a specific style related to the Islands’ houses? Is there a specific architectural style of the Princes’ Islands?

As with summer houses in many other locales, the inside of most of the Island buildings were built in a “U” plan, with the salons of both sides facing the outside in order to maintain air circulation. Similarly, a balcony is a must for almost all of the Islands’ buildings. However, since there has been no research on building construction plans, we are unable to elaborate on this subject. When we evaluate the style of the buildings by only focusing on the facades, we can examine some specific attributes. Many of the old mansions on the Islands can be classified as eclectic, with a combination of various architectural styles within the same building. Neo-Greek or Neo-Classical buildings (e.g. Sabuncu Mansion on Büyükada) are examples of a single classical style with a specific personal interpretation. There are also some successful examples of Art-Nouveau, Art Deco (The Dikmen House on Büyükada) and National Architecture (Büyükada Ferry Port) styles, although these are few in number. Similarly, there are a few buildings that cannot be categorized in terms of a style, but instead, were designed according to the architect’s individual style (the Sivastopulos-Triandafilidis Mansion on Büyükada). All of these buildings are from the 19th century through the early 20th century. From the 1940’s, buildings can generally be classified as modern architecture (on Büyükada The House of Rıza Derviş, The House of Sadıkoğlu, The House of Zeki Sayar; on Burgazada The House of Rotmann, The Kamhi-Grünberg Twin Villas, The Villa of Goldenberg, The House of Treves-Katalan; Kinaliada Mosque etc.). However, most apartment buildings can be classified as being shapeless’, and it is better not to include them under the heading of “architecture”.

This exhibition was designed to present the architectural richness of the Islands, remind us of the buildings that were brutally destroyed, suffered from erosion and become almost “extinct”, and finally, to commemorate the architects and master builders who created these buildings. It is inevitable that there are many gaps. We know that there are many anonymous buildings, those whose architects and master builders are unknown to us, but perhaps, with your help, we will discover who they were. If you have any information about buildings that are not included in this exhibition and the architects and master builders involved in the construction, please contact the museum so that we can include your information in our archives.

HASAN KURUYAZICI

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