Turkish delight: meet Sinan, the ‘first starchitect’

Turkish delight: meet Sinan, the ‘first starchitect’

London’s Building Centre has just launched an exhibition exploring the work of Mimar Sinan (1490-1588), the famous architect of the Ottoman Empire era. And while the show, entitled ‘Sinan: The First Starchitect’, offers, as expected, plenty of rich, historic material of the master’s work in Istanbul and beyond, it also gives its own inventive, modern twist to the tale.

Sinan was a contemporary of Palladio and Michelangelo, point out the organisers Turkishceramics and the Architects’ Journal, yet his work goes largely unnoticed outside the academic community and the geographical regions where his buildings can be found. This show, curated by Rory Olcayto, sets out to right this and explore how he helped define the look and feel of the Istanbul of his time and beyond, revealing how his work served ancient and contemporary communities alike.

A group of London-based architects – including Ian Ritchie Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, DSDHA, Reiach and Hall Architects, Sam Jacob Studio and Bureau de Change – travelled to Istanbul and Edirne a few months ago to study Sinan’s oeuvre. Drawing on their experience and the architect’s legacy, they developed a series of individual research projects around his work, brining his legacy to the 21st century.

The result? A show that balances old and new, Sinan’s aesthetic achievements and masterful use of ceramics, with his indisputable engineering skills – his portfolio ranges from high profile work in the former-empire’s capital to infrastructure work, spanning domes and minarets, bridges and aqueducts.

A publication celebrating Sinan’s work, as well as these contemporary interpretations, is also available at the Building Centre in conjunction with the exhibition.

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