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x0x The Dome

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    [See more at http://www.TurkRadio.us/domes/ ] x0x The Dome By Kamil FIRAT The wind may occasionally impel us to glance up at the sky, where sun, moon and stars
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2005
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      [See more at http://www.TurkRadio.us/domes/ ]

      x0x The Dome

      By Kamil FIRAT

      The wind may occasionally impel us to glance up at the sky, where sun,
      moon and stars float, where wind-tossed clouds transform sky into
      text. A rotating vacuum that presses us to its bosom and shelters us,
      encircling every point on our bodies. A transparent, porous space in
      which everything is at once sky. The sky, which encompasses all that
      rotates, is circular...The circle we see is "The time before me, the
      time after me, and the time that belongs to my being." A space not of
      time flowing from past to future but of time being scattered directly
      to all time in a continuous flux. In one of its aspects it corresponds
      to rotation, in another to the static with its centralized structure,
      and its closed and introverted nature.


      The dome is the most important expression of circularity in building.

      A massive vacuum enclosing the `aura', in which length, height, width,
      depth and, most importantly, time extend in every direction.

      In a dome, interior explains that which encloses it. The interior is
      the symbol of the exterior; the dome, a manifestation of externality
      that rises to the sky over the square and its variations, which
      represent pure reason and simplicity. As a structural element, the
      dome has a long past in the history of architecture. Pantheon in Rome,
      Hagia Sophia in Byzantium, and, again in the Renaissance,
      Michelangelo's St. Mark's are structures that embody the dome. The
      dome, first used in the monumental buildings of Rome and Byzantium,
      was widely implemented, especially in places of worship, long before
      the Turks settled in Anatolia.


      Together with the arrival of the Turks in Anatolia, during the period
      of the Principalities in particular, flat-roofed mosques predominated
      in what could be regarded as a continuation of the Central Asian
      tradition of building. But the Ottomans diverged from this tradition,
      using instead in their places of worship the domed structures
      traditional in Anatolia.

      Quickly adapted by the Ottomans to their own concept of building, the
      dome in a sense acquired its true identity with them, in a new
      aesthetic approach which, in its process of self-realization,
      coincided eminently well with their concept of structure. Windows and
      light were problems requiring solution in this new aesthetic approach.

      Structural details such as squinches, pendentives and `Turkish
      triangles', needed for the mediation from the square to the circle,
      emerged meanwhile as aesthetic surfaces and textures in their own
      right. Symmetry, circularity and rhythm became essential aesthetic
      manifestations of structure and decoration. One reason for all this
      striving was the belief that the dome in Islam represents the throne
      of God. Among the Ottomans, the dome in this sense ceased to be a mere
      structural element, becoming a conceptual element instead. During the
      600-plus years of the great imperial adventure that began in Sogut and
      ended in Istanbul, the dome was the quintessential Ottoman symbol.

      Evliya Celebi mentions in his notes how the Ottomans referred to
      mosques as domes. Each period of the empire can be discerned in its

      From the first modest examples to the monumental structures
      symbolizing power and splendor, and again in the feeble counterparts
      produced in the empire's final years, the history of the Ottomans is
      chronicled in their domes.

      With its modest and minimal features, the Green Mosque, the first
      Ottoman domed structure, built by architect Haci Musa in Iznik in
      1398, represents the beginning of this process. When Bursa becomes the
      capital, the great multi-domed and double-domed mosques on a reverse
      T-plan, such as the Green Mosque and Muradiye, turn it into a
      monumental city.

      A similar phenomenon is evident in the mosques of Edirne, where the
      Old Mosque and the Three-Balconied Mosque rise to the sky in testimony
      to the imperial process.


      Istanbul becomes a `cityof domes' after the conquest, which is
      followed immediately by the construction of the corollaries of the
      great double-domed mosques of Bursa--Mahmut Pasha Mosque at
      Nuruosmaniye and Murat Pasha Mosque at Aksaray.

      The Hagia Sophia, Byzantium's monumental structure, is converted into
      a mosque as well. The Ottoman sultans, vezirs, and pashas also
      commission the construction of numerous mosques for themselves and
      members of their families. Some of these are ordinary, nondescript
      structures, but others are truly monumental in nature, most of the
      latter having been built during the time of the architect known as
      Mimar Sinan.

      A masterbuilder, Sinan went beyond the ordinary in his interpretation
      of the tradition, his designs and his structural solutions, producing
      thought-provoking structures which evoke admiration even today. This
      great architect, who tried to bring a new perspective to the tradition
      in every building he designed, achieved a perfect synthesis of
      function and aesthetic in all these structures and must therefore must
      be regarded not merely as an architect but as an artist as well.

      From the aesthetic proportions of the diminutive Semsi Pasha Mosque to
      the way in which the problems of space and adaptation to topography
      are solved in the Suleymaniye Mosque built for Suleyman the
      Magnificent, Sinan underwent a further self-realization in every
      building he designed.

      At Selimiye in Edirne, too, Sinan created a structural organization
      that can be regarded as a flood of light in a space that seems to
      virtually support the sky. Exterior has become interior, and Sinan in
      a sense has created a space for the `aura'.


      As representatives of the tradition, the architects that succeeded
      Sinan continued to build monumental mosques, but they also arrived at
      new syntheses. Foremost among them are Mehmet Aga, architect of the
      Sultanahmet or `Blue' Mosque, Mustafa Aga, architect of the
      Nuruosmaniye Mosque, and Mehmet Tahir, architect of the Laleli Mosque.

      Under the influence of Westernization efforts in the late Ottoman
      period, we encounter examples that gradually deviate from the Ottoman
      identity. These eclectic structures express somehow the sadness of an
      empire that is breathing its last despite all efforts to survive.

      It is thrilling to view the Istanbul skyline today when the city
      lights come on, for the domes seem virtually stuck to the sky.

      Darkened semi-circles, detached from their spatial contexts, they have
      become part of the sky itself. When they sky turns a deep azure and
      the vault of heaven is sprinkled with moon and stars, dome and sky
      merge into one. And perhaps the true meaning of the dome is revealed.

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