with Hagia Sophia, the greatest and most interesting monuments
of Christianity were erected in the general Greek-Latin framework
In the middle of thel5th century when Turks conquered Istanbul
Byzantium was quite in ruins. Especially the effects of the
13 th century Latin invasion could still be seen. In a very
short time Turks gave the city a brand new character.
Turks who were running from east to west in the proceeding centuries
were still carrying the remnants of their nomadic traditions and
had not been accustomed to the classical Greek-Latin tradition.
The articulation of their traditions with the remains of the Byzantium
capital brought out new characteristics.
first characteristic was the reentrance of nature to the city.
Almost all the houses built by Turks had gardens and this met
the requirement of green areas which in modern cities is satisfied
by large park areas. Thus the city became greener. Besides the
house gardens, even in the 20 th century there were a large number
of vegetable gardens.
second important change is related to the organization of the
city. Istanbul, as the capital of Ottoman empire led to the formation
of different districts than those of Byzantium. The special conditions
of the post 1453 period also played a role in this development.
The city which had lost its population in the Byzantine era had
to be opened for resettlement. In order to fulfill this task people
were called from all over the empire to Istanbul and were settled
here without regarding any ethnic separation. These persons (Greeks
from Karaman Turks from towns such as Carsamba and Aksaray, Armenians
from different locations etc.) settled in districts which they
formed on the base of their ethnical roots or with their fellow
countrymen. The district, to some extent was a continuation of
rural characteristics: A square containing the locations which
brought the people together such as the coffee house alongside
the grocer, greengrocer and the butcher, formed the center of
the settlement. In the mean time, in a different manner from the
growing cities of the west, the settlements of Istanbul were not
marked by the differentiation of social classes. In every district
the rich, the middle class and the poor lived close together.
The base of the multi-ethnic way of living which was to become
a trait of Istanbul was formed in this manner.
type of wooden houses which again gave the city one its its main
characteristics until the middle of this century had again begun
in these early periods. There were many reasons for the preference
of wood: Being in the earthquake belt, rural habits etc. But the
main reason was economical. Wood was cheap and so was wooden cons-
traction. Also, wooden houses were in conformity with the climate
of the city. Its main drawback, as is known is its weakness in
face of fire, and indeed, all through the centuries fires have
been a disaster never lacking in Istanbul.
through the Ottoman period, although many details of the Greek-Latin
style had naturally changed, some dominant characteristics have
continued up to our day.
old avenues and squares became narrower with the new houses and
shops built on them. But they never disappeared altogether. The
main artery joining Sultanahmet to Aksaray, and the main streets
on the axes of Cerrahpasa-Samatya-Yedikule and Fatih-Karagümrük-Edirnekapi
were existing since Roman times. The avenues of Vatan and Millet
were built in 1950's by enlarging the itineraries existing from
the most ancient times.
the Byzantium churches, the ones in good condition were turned
into mosques and thus protected. Even the structures representing
different pre-monotheistic religious beliefs and customs were
left untouched. Columns like the one in Cemberlitas is one of
these. The harshness shown to pagan structures by Byzantines was
not repeated by Turks for the Byzantine ones.
the other hand, the higher locations places of the city visible
from far away were ornamented by Ottoman sultans with mosques.
This was also a custom from the Byzantine times. Fatih Mehmet
(the conqueror) Bayezid Selim and Kanuni Süleyman (the magnificent)
all chose one of the seven hills of Istanbul and built their mosques.
Mihrimah, the daughter of Kanuni also followed the tradition and
with the construction of Nuruosmaniye the silhouette of Istanbul
the interesting point is that after the Hagia Sophia of the 6
th century Byzantines had not built anything approaching it during
the following period of nearly a thousand years and, paradoxically,
the architectural greatness reached by Hagia Sophia was continued
by Turks after the conquest. The great public building of this
period were the mosques and their complexes. Leaving aside a few
palaces for the sultans, no building of monumental size was erected.
In fact, even the palaces were quite modest buildings. This was
a result of the Islamic morality which refrained from boasting
during the ephemeral life.
for business life, here also the structure remaining from the
Byzantine times was partially protected , and in some cases the
guilds were settled in the very location of the guilds which had
previously performed the same tasks. Since the Golden Horn was
the port of disembarkation for merchandise, business centers continued
to be located on its shores.
Ottomans, without totally eliminating its Greek-Latin character,
created the capital of another civilization from this city. This
new Istanbul perpetuated its existence without an important alteration
until the 19 th century. For a few hundred years it was the most
populated city of the western world.
industrial revolution which began in west during the 19 th century
commenced to change the face of the world. This change was inevitably
going to make its mark on the concepts and implementations of
urban development and it was impossible for Istanbul and the Ottoman
state not to be effected from this event in its neighboring location.
new understanding showed itself first not in the traditionally
settled districts, but in the region north of the Golden Horn
which was less populated. The history of the Beyoglu region had
created the conditions for this development. Galata had represented
the West in this Levant town ever since it was a Genoese colony.
The Ottomans had also placed the embassies in this district after
the establishment of diplomatic relations and thus this side of
the city had grown as a sort of ex-Istanbul location. Thus it
was natural that the the new concepts of urbanization took root
in this district.
a result of this development in the beginning of the 19th century
Istanbul again came under the influence of a new civilization
and its concepts of urbanization. From this point onwards this
style developed with a high pace, but it too couldn't totally
erase the traces of the past ages. Looking at these trends of
development we can say that until the 20th century Istanbul underwent
at least three very radical and serious transformations.