An Eye On Design In Istanbul

When I learned I  would be going to Istanbul on fairly short notice, I consulted with my daughter who had recently returned from there. She advised that I read Istanbul: The Collected Traveler, An Inspired Companion Guide  edited by Barrie Kerper. I took her advice and read this and other books to learn as much about Istanbul as quickly as I could. The more I read about this fabled city, the more I was overwhelmed  with how much I did not know. Because here’s the thing about Istanbul: whatever you know or see or experience, there is always more.

Now that I am back from Istanbul I naturally want to share some of the “more” that I experienced there during my brief visit. I anticipate that this task will be just as easy as pulling individual jewel- colored pieces  of glass out of a twirling, revolving  kaleidoscope. If such a thing were possible, one piece I would extract would be  that of design. I cannot think of a single place I looked in Istanbul where I did not behold the splendor of ancient design. Whenever I am surrounded by works which have survived the centuries, I am humbled by the skills of these long dead artists and craftsmen. How did they live? How did they learn to plan and carry out works in stone, in glass, in paint, in jewels, in fibers?

I could go on and on describing my emotional reactions to these wonders, but  you already know my magpie tendencies. So without further ado here are  some  some designs  I admired from just one place: the Hagia Sophia Museum.DSC_0346

I love the painted arch above the screened window.DSC_0347

To the left of the dome is a scaffold; restoration is ongoing in the museum.DSC_0362

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View from the balcony.

View from the balcony.

The chandeliers, an Ottoman addition to the space, seem like floating clouds.

The chandeliers, an Ottoman addition to the space, seem like floating clouds.

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The mosaic tiles.

The mosaic tiles.

A view out the window.

A view out the window.

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This mosaic looks as though it is made out of gold.

Even the broken floors have interesting shapes.

Even the broken floors have interesting shapes.

Beautiful shapes everywhere.

Beautiful shapes everywhere.

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A railing.

A railing.

 From Christian era, excavated during renovations.

From Christian era, excavated during renovations.

More excavated stone.

More excavated stone.

In the courtyard.

In the courtyard.

In my musings about ancient structures and design, I am always reassured at how similar humans seem to be through the ages. We seem wired to decorate, to embellish, to arrange raw materials around us in order to make statements about ourselves in this world, and about what we believe to be the world to come. In the majestic spaces of the Hagia Sophia I am reminded like untold numbers before me that I am but a miniscule speck beneath the glory of the heavens. Through carvings, paintings, mosaics, and more, artists of the early Christian and Ottoman periods  speak to us of intangibles: life, love, eternity, brotherhood. Questions they struggled with then we still struggle with today. I find a pleasing design in that.

7 thoughts on “An Eye On Design In Istanbul

  1. This was such a whirlwind trip, I spent most of my time just trying to capture images in my mind and in photos of the ancient things we saw. You on the other hand, went beyond mere photos and captured the deeper emotions of these sights and for that I am very grateful.

  2. How gorgeous! I remember how overwhelmed I was when we first set foot inside–it is a truly majestic place. I love your pictures! My favorite is of the hanging chandeliers–how did you get that shot without 100 people in it?! You are my hero 🙂

  3. I suppose i stood there until enough people moved out of the way. Sadly I had to delete many many pictures. We did not go there on a sunny day, and many of my shots were just too dark.

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  5. Pingback: Istanbul ← OVERTURKEY

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