Works of architecture that are aimed for the public almost always bear political connotations. However, when incompetence in understanding the relationship between architecture and public use is present in those who are in charge, outcomes are, to say the least, funny.
The most recent example I have seen is the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s desire to build a mosque which will be designed in a way that it can be seen from everywhere in Istanbul on the largest remaining hill on the sides of the Bosphorus, Çamlıca, as he announced on May 29th. Then an architect was selected after a personal request by Mr. Erdogan, and according to this architect, the mosque will have 6 minarets, and the dome will be bigger than those of our ancestors. The minarets will be the tallest ever made.
As you might have expected, many architects and scholars were infuriated by these statements. Their appeals can be roughly organized in two categories:
1) The location in question, which is occupied by a forest and a number of TV towers at the moment, doesn’t need a mosque that big simply because there aren’t that many people living around that area.
2) It is not a bright idea to try to build the biggest ever made, since the fact that you have the biggest dome or the tallest minarets don’t serve a purpose in our contemporary time. It is also far from a bright idea to try to compete with the architecture of the past, or more specifically, Sinan’s work (who as an interesting side note wasn’t that crazy about minarets), as going bigger is not the way to cherish the past than understanding it and reinterpreting it according to the standards of our epoch.
In short, we wouldn’t be wrong to state that there isn’t a mosque needed at that spot, and this whole incident is merely an attempt to make a political statement through architecture, which has been a popular move throughout history. However, I believe the aesthetics of mosques that are built in the last several decades are mostly disgraceful. Then, how are we supposed to build mosques? A groundbreaking example, in my opinion, of a modern interpretation of a mosque is drawn by Emre Arolat, a recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture among many others, and it is definitely worth it to have a look.
What do you think about politics using architecture and inflicting critical impacts on cities and urban life in order to make a political statement?
Credits: Data linked to sources, image by author.