Bruno Tauts projekt zum wettbewerb »Haus der Freundschaft« in Istanbul

Translated title of the contribution: Bruno Taut's project on the "House of Friendship" contest in Istanbul

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In the year 1916, an architectural competition was launched by the German Werkbund for the construction of a »House of Friendship« in Istanbul. The idea was to create a cultural and political center that would symbolize the close relations between the Ottoman and German Empires. Eleven German architects were invited to participate in the competition, and they were also given the task to evaluate their proposals. Bruno Taut's project which was eliminated at the first voting session deserves a detailed examination, since its features can be considered an attempt to interpret the Byzantine and Ottoman architectural heritage of Istanbul, a fact that makes this project unique among the others. The building covers a large area at the Divan Yolu, the ceremonial main street of the Ottoman court members. It is situated across the 19th century tomb complex of Mahmut II built in Empire Style. Taut's »House of Friendship« consists of a covered section with arcades on two sides and an open courtyard with libraries and accommodation units surrounding it. The quadrangular main section houses the foyer with kiosks, reading rooms and shops whereas the two halls for cultural events can be found on the first floor. The combination of the octagonal main hall and the secondary hall with its apse-like projection strongly resembles the architectural composition of the Sergius and Bacchus Church from the 6th Century. In the courtyard, the projecting »apse« is furnished with architectural motifs such as an undulated cornice with circular windows, tiny chimneys at the top, and modular window openings which are all borrowed from the Ottoman architectural tradition. The architectural mass of this projection can be compared to the Ottoman tomb buildings and fountains (sebils). The rectangular pediment on the front of the main building and the crowning parapet with star-shaped openings are further Ottoman inspirations. The concept of the entire project is also based on the monumental mosque architecture, with a domed prayer hall and an arcaded courtyard as its starting point. However, all these borrowed ideas and forms were not just repeated by Taut in a revivalist manner. He abstracted and somewhat neutralized the Ottoman forms so that one can not immediately attach them to a particular architectural tradition. For instance, the arches of the arcades are not in pointed form; the shape of the dome and the exterior arrangement of the whole building do not reveal an Ottoman revivalist character either. The apsidal projection in the courtyard, on the other hand, is conceived as an Ottoman tomb building or as a sebil and is therefore quite heavily decorated, but Taut concealed this historicist design in the courtyard so that it could not be seen from outside. This shows once again Taut's attitude towards creating a neutral and modern design. During his short visit, Taut stayed in Hotel Germania up on the northern side of the Golden Horn from where he had the chance to reach the old city easily. The architect tells in the article on his Istanbul days that he was impressed by the monumental, yet human scale of the mosques which crown the city's skyline. He states that the Ottoman era had brought a fresh spirit to the city after the end of the Byzantine Empire. This enthusiastic approach to the local architecture manifested itself in many ways in Taut's proposal for the »House of Friendship«. When compared to the then prevailing National Style with its traditional elements, such as pointed arches, stalactites, tiles etc., directly taken from the classical Ottoman architecture, Taut's project emerges as an abstract and modern design. The merits of this design are based on the universal components of the Ottoman architecture like architectural mass, space, scale, and proportion, and the creative architectural visions of Taut.

Translated title of the contributionBruno Taut's project on the "House of Friendship" contest in Istanbul
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)77-94
Number of pages18
JournalArchitectura - Zeitschrift fur Geschichte der Baukunst
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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