MESA Book Awards

Gülru Necipoğlu

Harvard University

2005 Albert Hourani Book Award Honorable Mention

Gülru Necipoğlu

Gülru Necipoğlu

The Age of Sinan:  Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire
Princeton University Press, 2005

Focusing on the literally monumental achievements of the great sixteenth-century Ottoman architect, The Age of Sinan is a study, as one committee member put it, “of the design, construction, and embellishment of official monuments during the classical Ottoman period, but it is also much more than that.  The ruling elite – the sultan, his family, and both major and minor officials – represented imperial achievement and personal rank through building projects.  Architecture was a primary vehicle for claiming one’s place in Ottoman society and history.  Sinan developed a new grammar for these architectural representations.  The author’s study of the evolution of imperial architecture is consequently at one and the same time a study of the evolution of imperial society and culture.”    

The Age of Sinan is not only stunningly comprehensive in its coverage but also beautifully produced, with visual materials central to the textual analysis.  It marshals an enormous range of texts and artifacts.  Analyzing Sinan’s own writings as well as his modes of work, his protégés, and his plans, the author presents him as both unique and paradigmatic, a figure of the Ottoman elite claiming position through visual accomplishment, yet also a renaissance figure.  The book sets Sinan not only within Ottoman precedent but also in a Mediterranean context of communication and mutual impact between the political capital of the Ottoman empire and European mercantile, artistic, and political activity.  It is compelling in its refusal to isolate Ottoman architecture from either the Ottoman political/economic world or from that of Europe; exchanges and mutual influences between artists and architects of Italy and Istanbul, for example, form a strong and convincing theme.

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