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BOOK

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REVIEW

The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire By Gülru Necipoglu. Reaktion, 2005. 592pp. £60

Maybe some delegates at the recent UIA congress in Istanbul managed to tear themselves away from Zaha and make for the Süleymaniye mosque complex - a symbol of the Ottoman Empire at its 16thcentury height, designed by the most accomplished architect of the period, Sinan. With a background in bridge-building and military engineering, Sinan has been called 'the Turkish Michelangelo'; he's also been seen as a proto-Modernist in his rationalism and pursuit of structural clarity in reconciling the dome of a mosque with the rectangular prayer hall beneath.

In that respect, his Selimiye mosque at Edirne (1569-75) is hailed as his masterpiece.

But in this dense, detailed, truly comprehensive study, Gülru Necipoglu supplements her formal analyses with an archive-trawling recreation of the cultural context that the buildings (not just mosques) emerged from - the urban setting, the Ottoman contruction industry, the status of Sinan's patron for a particular mosque (which would determine its type).

Helping her do this are many historical illustrations which accompany the scrupulous plans, sections, and present-day photographs. These images are always subservient to the text, underplayed even - and the book is probably destined for specialists. But after all the detail and myriad annotations, it is hard to disagree with Necipoglu's simple last sentence, where she says that Sinan's mosques are 'intensely alluring monuments, some of the most enduring architectural masterpieces'.

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