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Inside the Hagia Sophia / Photo Shutterstock
Inside the Hagia Sophia / Photo Shutterstock

To understand the variety of architectural styles in Turkey, we can begin with the pre-Islamic heritage, of which Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofya) (built in 532-537) and the current Kariye Museum (Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora, built in 534) are among the finest examples. The architecture of the Seljuk Turks, which is rather modest, is to be seen in many cities in the Central Anatolia region. Ottoman architecture, known for its grandeur and exemplified by the works of the famous architect Mimar Sinan (1489-1588), continues these legacies but exceeds them in scale and ambition. Sinan’s work was adapted by other architects, such as Sedefkar Mehmed Agha, who built the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul between 1609 and 1616. Istanbul witnessed a true architectural revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, which combined many (especially Western) styles; the Dolmabahçe Palace (1842-1853) and Istanbul University (originally the War Ministry, 1833) are among the most significant examples.

The period of the republic which draws its inspiration from European (especially Italian) styles, has an architecture of grandeur, of which the mausoleum of Atatürk, the famous Anıtkabir (built between 1944 and 1953), is both culmination and transcendence. During this period, People’s Houses and statues with nationalist themes were built in the main square of every large city.

Few works mark the architectural history of post-Kemalist Turkey – numerous American-style malls, housing blocks, and the imposing but unoriginal towers that overlook Istanbul.

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