In the field and history of architecture some works are considered as outstanding due to a number of qualities including structural and aesthetic value of their architecture. There are some architects in the history who have contributed remarkably in the field of the architecture and through their innovative ideas and several unique designs, have become an ideal for their descendant architects. One of such architect is the Sinan who is considered unanimously the greatest architecture of the ottoman architecture. This paper discusses the architecture Sinan, salient features of his designs and his contributions in the ottoman architecture.
Sinan served as the chief architecture of the Ottoman Empire from the year of 1538 to the year of 1588. He contributed in the construction of more than four hundred buildings in the Ottoman Empire. His understanding of the art and architecture was superb and buildings, designed by Sinan were full of aesthetic elegance. In Toto, his time and architecture was tour de force for the Ottoman Empire. There was a unique variation in his working which gave birth to the new designs which were followed by his successor architectures for the centuries.
Innovations done by Sinan in the architecture
Sinan had introduced several structural changes to make the buildings according to his imagination. One can clearly observe these changes and the innovative designs which were designed by the Sinan. Jale Erzen writes in the book “the quality of sinan’s work depends largely on the tightly knit structure. In Sinan’s mosques the secondary structural and spatial parts are not just added to the core baldachin but are dependent on and supportive of it. This constitutes the basic structural principle of Sinan mosques. In fact, as the plan indicate, the structural as well as the spatial solution depended on the encircling the core with secondary spaces”.
1. While the construction of a mosque, a unified space is the first requirement which should be kept in the mind. This unified space should be wide and literally spacious considering the number of the followers. Sinan felt and recognized this requirement of the space and designed the mosques of the Ottoman Empire, keeping this fact in his mind. Sehzade, the first sultanate mosque of Sinan is designed this way and all the mosques, made in the later periods are designed by the Sinan have this feature with some improved techniques. Almost all the mosques, designed by the Sinan are according to the hexagonal plans but his finest creation which is situated in the Edirne is made according to the octagonal plan.
2. Sinan designed his structures in such a way so that they allow day light to enter in to the structures. By using his logics he removed all the problems associated with designs of structures like; he moved covering system on the pillars and piers. Sinan tried to make this structure more uniform by doing this and increased lighting inside the structures. A very good example how Sinan used his logics for betterment of the structure is the Mosque of Mihrimah Sultan. He removed semi structured domed and provided more windows in side walls. Domed provided the required support by only four pillars. All the supporting structure developed for dome was carefully hidden inside the walls. The mosque is known for its single boundary wall and unique structure.
3. Another additional feature of Sinan’s architecture is the use of galleries in the mosques of Ottoman Empire. Suleymaniye mosque and the mosque of sehzade are the examples of this architecture. This feature is the part of the double boundary system used by the Sinan in his creations. Godfrey Goodwin recognizes his innovations as “what had been lacking in the earlier ottoman architecture were the splendid facades of the western renaissance and before. Now these appear in embryo along the sides of the mosque in the form of large arcades with a rhythm of flanking arches at each side of their central entrances”. As an additional feature, the fountains were used for the first time under the galleries. The purpose of making these mountains there is to serve the needs of the followers before the offering of the namaz in addition to increase the aesthetic value of the mosques.
4. Domes are frequently used in the designed mosques by the Sinan. These domes have become archetype of his designs. Several scholars have addressed sinan as the master of the domes. Bulend ozer evaluates him in these words “sinan’s long experiments with the key elements of the domed structures, namely the dome, pendentive and support members provided him with the facility to evolve a synthesis of these elements in a totally rational structure support system which was both the ultimate solution and at the same time relatively uncomplex in conception”. He has been found perfect by the scholars in using the art of domes in the buildings.
Sinan’s City planning
Sinan has done a great work in Istanbul. He planned complete administration of the city like sewage system, fire system, renovation of public monuments and planning and construction all major important buildings of the Istanbul city. Erzen in his book mentioned that “Sinan contributed to it a mechanism of connections that made it work as a whole. He activated the already existing foundation to function appropriate to an imperial Ottoman capital, by providing the necessary links and aesthetic significances, through his architecture”.
Sinan did not modify the basic structure of the city and kept the original landscape of the city. He established a great connection between existing topology and his creation of architecture and buildings. He developed huge buildings for exhibitions and given them background of monument impression. He developed a relationship between place and people by building sculptures. On the other hand mosques also represented the religious values and eternal life; north part of the mosque symbolized vibrant life, dome part shows good power and south part represent death. He constructed mosques in a manner so that they are visible from different part of the city. He maintained the overall aestheticism in the city.
Sinan’s site organization
One major feature of the Sinan’s architecture was the site organization. Being the chief architect of the Ottoman Empire, Sinan was responsible for all the construction as well as the maintenance works of the empire. He chose the sites of all the buildings with a vision and did not confine his thinking to the construction but also he kept the maintenance task in his mind. The buildings were built at such places that in case of any misfortune, immediate help could be supply to the people. Erzen writes “in the ottoman period, it was sinan who, overseeing all the architectural activity of the empire, gave it its imperial form and meaning. He contributed to it a mechanism of connections that made it work as a whole. He activated the already existing foundation to function appropriate to an imperial ottoman capital, by providing the necessary links and aesthetic significances, through his architecture.”
The art and architecture that Sinan introduced was undoubtedly very advanced and according to the demand of the time. The technology that he used was though in use since a long time but the new methods that sinan introduced, made the architecture a complete solution for the structural, aesthetical and functional problems. Sinan was a visionary who planned the designs with a vision; his designed buildings are free of the problems even in today’s times.
The architecture that Sinan used is a source of inspiration for his successor architects and they are using his techniques in the today’s scenario to make buildings, mosques and other new ventures. The modern architecture has been changed a bit according to the modern requirements but the impression of the sinan is still there in the architectural works of the ottomans. The site and city planning are used as they were in the time of sinan with some modifications. The modern requirements are increasing because of the increasing population and this is the requirement of the time to make some changes in the centuries old architecture. Today the situation has been changed and so are the demands of the art and architecture. Now days, the buildings are designed and made to fulfill the demand of the time unlike the earlier times when the buildings were the symbols of the nobleness and the emperors.
The architecture introduced by the sinan was not only in trend inside the Ottoman Empire but several other countries also adopted the art and architecture of Sinan. He was a genius who made several mosques, bridges, medersas, mansions, schools, hospitals and other noticeable architectural works as the chief architecture of the Ottoman Empire. Some of his buildings are still there even after centuries and they are the witness of the Sinan’s dedication and the skill that he had.
After having observed the detailed analysis of the architecture and contribution of the sinan during the Ottoman Empire, it is good to say that Sinan was unanimously the best architect of his times. He introduced several new techniques and made several changes in the traditional art and architecture. He presented the solutions to several architectural problems and introduced the technique which was competent enough to solve the structural, aesthetical and functional problems of the buildings. Sinan while designing the buildings kept the Islamic designs in his mind and the same is reflected on the buildings designed by him. His designs were famous and elegant enough to draw the attentions of the foreigners also. His designs were used in several other countries outside the Ottoman Empire. He was a genius who is remembered by the modern architects and several studies have been done to reveal the master works done by him over a period of the time.
Erzen, Jale Nejdet. Sinan Ottoman Architect: An Aesthetic Analysis. Ankara: METU, 2004.
Goodwin, Godfrey. Sinan: Ottoman Architecture and its values today. London: Saqi Books, 1993.
Ozer, Bulend. “The Architect of Domed Mosques as a Master of Pluralism.” Environmental Design Journal of The Islamic Environmental Design Research Centre (1987): 155.
Reha Günay and Mimar Sinan. Sinan – the architect and his works. Istanbul: YEM Yanin, 2007.