Analysis Of Architecture In The Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire, Islamic-run superpower was created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia which grew to be one of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th-16th century. The Ottoman flourished for more than 600 years and came to an end only in 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic. It was one of the most longest-lasting dynasties in history. The chief leader, the Sultan, was given religious and political power over his people. The Empire is known for its great regional stability and security, and also has important achievements in the arts, science, religion and culture.

The Ottomans were known for their achievements in all fields such as art, science and medicine. The empire was renowned for its artistic hubs, especially during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.

The most prominent forms of art included calligraphy, painting, poetry, textiles and carpet weaving, ceramics and music.

Ottoman architecture clearly defined the culture of the time and the empire. Big and historic mosques and public buildings were constructed during this period.


The Ottoman Empire is known for its spectacular architectural forms especially the mosques, forts, palaces and tombs. Some of the most popular buildings are:-

Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace is the largest and one of the most popular sites in Istanbul. It was built from 1466 to 1478 by the then ruling sultan, Mehmet II.

The original layout consisted of four consecutive courtyards surrounded by high walls. Each courtyard served different purposes and was separated by a gate that restricted entry to the private third and fourth courtyards. The surviving buildings of the palace are generally low, one or two-story structures that have changed functions over the centuries. Hence wise the purpose of some buildings, like the harem, is not clear.

Banya Bashi Mosque

The construction of this mosque was completed in 1566, when the Ottomans had control of the Sofia city in Bulgaria. The mosque derives its name from the words Banya Bashi, which means “many baths”. The most striking feature of the mosque is that it was built over natural thermal spas. It is possible to this day to see the steam rising from vents in the ground near the mosque walls. The mosque is also famous for its large dome having a diameter of 15m, and one standing minaret.

Islamic Interior Style

  • The Islamic style interior design has many significant elements in it like gardens and fountains being a vital part of it. Gardens are regarded as representations of paradise.
  • The houses in the Ottoman Empire had inner courtyard which is a common feature in large houses, and it provided natural lighting and ventilation and also location for a private garden.
  • There was an entry hall which acted like an intermediate between inside and outside.
  • The Islamic style stressed on Islamic rules and regulation like the bed was oriented such that the person faces the direction of Mecca on the right when sleeping or in a way that the head points towards it.
  • The washrooms were made large enough so that the WC wouldn’t face Mecca. There was space for different functions in the washroom like ablution, ghousal etc.

The Islamic interior decoration is often elaborate and heavily oriented using different types of materials for walls, cornices and floor.

The three main types of decoration styles are geometric patterns, calligraphic texts, and stylized floral motifs (arabesques). They were combined to produce even more elaborate designs. Any form of human or animals were strictly avoided as it was considered idolatry and was forbidden in the Quran.

Art and craft

In ottoman style, the use of Islamic art focused on the implying patterns both pure geometric and floral, and Arabic calligraphy and not figures, because it is feared that the depiction of the human form is idolatry.

Calligraphic design is present in Islamic art, where it includes religious inscriptions, including that of Qur'anic verses on secular objects like coins, tiles and through metalwork.

These were done on buildings ceilings and columns. Mosques and tombs had these writing on marble, gold and other precious materials.

Handicrafts were formed by bringing together genuine values with the cultural heritage of the different civilizations which belonged to Islamic world.

Marbling is the art of marbling on paper, or “ebru” in Turkish. The ottomans decorated their palaces with events and honored donation, and Islamic beliefs. By this process they carved and sculpted their history and praised their sultan achievements and victories.


Stone and brick

The architects during the Ottoman Empire, especially after the early period built the houses and the building with stone. They also used bricks for arches, domes and vaults.

Lead was commonly used to cover domes and minaret caps, especially from 10th 16th century onwards.

Polychrome glazed ceramic tiles, like the famous Iznik tiles which has a lot of white and blue color, were used extensively as wall coverings, and later on replaced marble as a sheathing material.

Wood is used as both a structural and a decorative material in both exterior and interior, and it was the dominant material for the houses of the Ottoman capital, Istanbul.

Textile materials like rugs, carpet and embroidery are adorned on the flooring of mosques and palaces. These carpets also serve as prayer mats to people till date. In the recent times these carpets are sponsored by people and are frequently changed.

Glass and tiles were also in the domes. In the blue mosque, the ceiling is made of stained blue glass which allows penetration of light into the mosque and also gives the mosque a beautiful picturesque view by evening.


The most distinguished features of Ottoman Empire are

  • The domes, they were widely used in mosques, tombs and palaces. They were not seemed large but were also weightless.
  • Calligraphic Inscriptions from the holy Qur’an were made on columns, walls and ceilings not only to depict that the style was derived from the Islamic world but to also symbolize believes in the design
  • Marble was used for flooring and construction and not only was it considered a coolant but also it was available easily and it could be carved into any form.
  • The ceilings are heavily detailed with the use of gold and precious elements.
  • All architectural forms had a Sehan, or a courtyard surrounding it, this was to provide area for people to gather and seek shelter.
  • There were minarets or towers around mosques and they provided an area for announcements or prayer calls.
  • The layouts were either square or rectangular and did not display any other asymmetrical ground plan.
  • There were big windows shaped in the form of arches. These sometimes also had wooden barricades or sills.
  • The colors of the exterior were usually neutral to white with only the domes getting a touch of color.
  • The Islamic style interior used wood heavily for furniture.


The Blue Mosque also known as Sultan Ahmed Mosque is located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was constructed from 1609 to 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. It contains Ahmed's tomb, a teaching room and leisure area. The interior of the mosque is made with Hand-painted blue tiles, and at night the mosque is lit in blue as lights frame the mosque’s five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. It includes some Byzantine Christian with traditional Islamic architecture and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.

The interior of the mosque is dominated by blue paint. 200 stained glass windows with intricate designs allow natural light to fall in. The cornices, columns and the walls are decorated with verses from the Qur'an. The floors are adorned with carpets, which are donated by the people who want to help and these are regularly replaced as they wear out. There are many spacious windows that create a spacious environment. The most important element of the mosque is the Mihrab, which is made of finely carved and sculptured marble, with a niche and a double inscriptive panel above it. It is surrounded by many windows. The adjacent walls are covered in ceramic tiles.

31 October 2020
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