Mehmed Ziya: an advocate of ancient monuments between the Ottoman city and the Turkish nation

By Ahmet Sezgin
Submitted to Session P4888 (Who Protects What! Actors of Conservation from Late Ottoman Empire to Republican Turkey, 2017 Annual Meeting
Archit & Urb Plng
13th-18th Centuries; 19th-21st Centuries; History of Architecture; Ottoman Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Mehmed Ziya (b.1866-d.1930) was an avid promoter and writer of architectural monuments in the last decades of Ottoman Empire and the early decades of the Turkish Republic following his middle rank position in the civil bureaucracy. He was in a unique position as both member of pioneering civil organisations (The Society of Friends of Istanbul - Istanbul Muhibleri Cemiyeti) and the official associations for conservation (Association of Conservation of Ancient Monuments - Muhafaza-i Asar-i Atika Cemiyeti). In the latter, he was one of the key people for recording and archiving the ancient monuments of Istanbul. This paper aims at analysing his role in the history of preservation of heritage in Turkey through his writings, conferences and organisation of commemorations. The focus will be particularly on his contribution to the popularisation of the concept of the ancient monument (Âsâr-? Atîka) and its promotion by commemorating the creators of the monuments. Drawing on his conferences and publications, I will present that Ziya’s selection of ancient monuments were towards a self-defining identity of the city and its architectural heritage. In it, how he reconciled the pre-Ottoman heritage of the city with Turkish patriotism and pride of citizenry will be one of the main discussion points. The paper will further discuss Ziya’s prominent role in commemoration of poets (Sheikh Galip – d.1799) and architects (Sinan- d.1588) as Ottoman heroes and linking them to the architectural heritage in contemporary Istanbul. Focusing on the commemorations of anniversaries of Sinan’s demise, I will reveal how his personal passion in ancient monuments of Istanbul coalesced with the patriotism of the First world War years as well as with the pride in citizenry. Beginning in 1921, these commemorations took place in front of Sinan’s tomb and covered speeches about and visits to his monuments. In their heydays in 1920s and 1930s, they promoted Istanbul as a composition of ancient monuments within the officially sanctioned rhetoric over the Turkish national genius in architecture. I will look at how Ziya positioned himself in the burgeoning division over the definition of the architectural heritage of the nation. Drawing on the analysis of these primary sources, the paper conclude with recognising the role of individual voices in the formation of idea of architectural heritage of the nation.