Group 5a: The 2nd Research Seminar

Urban Space and Architectural Culture
in the Middle East


Date: October 16th, 1999.

Place: Institute of Oriental Culture, The University of Tokyo.


At the second research seminar on Urban Space and Architectural Culture in the Middle East, Hiroyuki KASHIWAGI, Kayoko HAYASHI, and Keizo UCHIDA explored the topic "Architecture and patrons." They addressed construction in ancient Egypt, city planning in the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century, and the architectural records of the Ottoman Empire from the early 17th century, respectively.


Architecture at the Time of Ramsses II

Hiroyuki KASHIWAGI (Waseda University)

The reign of Egyptユs controversial Pharaoh Akhenaten (B.C.1350~1334) was a time of revolution and chaos. And as this era came to an end, a vigorous restoration was launched with the succeeding reign of Ramses.


The new dynasty, however, was not of Pharaonic descent. For this reason Sety I (B.C. 1291~1278) and Ramsses II (B.C. 1279~1212) resorted to asserting their legitimacy by adding their own names to the geneological list of sovereigns.


The new period brought a revivalist style to architecture. One example of such a tendency was that the Osireion in Abydos constructed by Sety I resembled a temple built by Khafra (B.C. 2558~2532) in Giza. It is also known that Ramsses II was considerably influenced by Amenhotep III (B.C. 1386~1349) in architechture. Ka-em-waset, who, in obedience to the Pharaoh's orders, undertook historical studies and the restoration of historic structures, played a significant role in such revivalist movements. However, his detailed activities are not known.

Numerous structures and enormous statues throughout Egypt were built under the reign of Ramsses II. Although improvements in efficiency were implemented in order to accomplish these tremendous constructions, the quality of the work was compromised. Ramsses II also contributed to the spread and standardization of technical skills. The Pharaonic construction projects brought about improvements on the road system and commerce as well as the development of the construction procedures themselves.

The construction of Pharaonic tombs continued and large-scale structures such as the Temple of Ramsses III were built even after the times of Ramsses II, although construction activity was on the wane. It is inferred that the city had been organized through vigorous construction during the times of Ramsses II so thoroughly that only a certain extent of maintainance was necessary thereafter. Further research on the times of Ramsses II is to be conducted from the viewpoint that it was Ramsses II that not only established the stability and foundation of the nation but also developed it further.


Construction by Mehmed II.

Kayoko HAYASHI (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)

The topic disccussed was the construction in Istanbul by Mehmed II, a sultan of the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century. Following the chronological survey of construction activities by Mehmed II such as improvements on city walls and palaces, restoration of old mosques, and construction of commercial facilities and new mosques, three characteristics of the construction activities were pointed out.

1) The spacial arrangement of facilities in the city exhibited certain patterns. The landscape was well exploited so that the edifice that symbolized authority would be seen from anywhere in the city. Structures associated with the governing class including those built by the retainers were arranged hierarchically throughout the city.

2) The structures were characterized by their symmetric designs. The symmetric arrangement of public facilities in a vast garden suggests a connection with Renaissance architecture.

3) The Islamic donation system of the waqf was taken advantage of in order to execute all construction as national projects and, at the same time, enhance the reputation of the sultan as a doer of good. Mehmed II expressed through these construction projects the centralistic authority of the sultan reigning from Istanbul.

Turkish knights, and dervishes, among others, howerver, maintained averse to the sovereignty of the sultan and the construction of the capital in Istanbul. Their anti-centralistic mentality became apparent in various fashions. Late 15th century legends that of Constantinople and of Aya Sofya for instance, criticized the sultanユs construction activities, emphasizing the inauspiciousness of Istanbul. Such opinions gained influence in the late 15th century and even caused Mehmed II to recompile the waqf documents. Historically speaking, it was Mehmed II that established the foundation of the centralistic regime of the Ottomans. Nevertheless, it is important to note that his adversaries had great influence and the establishment of the capital city progressed under contention between the two forces.


Patrons in the Ottoman Architectural Records.

Keizo UCHIDA (architect)

l Risale i Mimariyye: Synopsis

These studies were conducted through the Japanese translation of Howard Crane's interpretation of the Ottoman records. Classified as a biographical document of Mehmed Aga, the text is a glossary of terminology with an appendix including explanations of the systems of measurements . Its author, Cafer Efendi, who worked with Mehmed Aga, is well acquainted with architecture.

l Risale i Mimariyye: The Life of Mehmed Aga

The course of Mehmed Aga's promotion is portrayed in detail. Mehmed Aga was first recruited for the Yenicheri, then became a member of the court became associated with the military. He finally succeeded as a chief architect.

l Risale i Mimariyye: Restoration of the Ka'ba

A chronological history of the Ka'ba, from its foundation to the restoration by Mehmed Aga, is presented. It was surmised from the comparison between the actual measurements of the structure and the description in the text that the cubital scale was 70 ~ 75 cm. Additional information such as terminology related to the Kaユba is also provided.

l Risale i Mimariyye: Construction of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque

The philosophy behind the design and the activities of the chief architect, Mehmed Aga, are explored in the text. The architecture is examined in terms of mathematics and musical theory.

l Mehmed Aga And Organizations of the Ottoman Empire

The approximate year of Mehmed Aga's birth and his career are inferred from the records of the contemporary requisition system called devshirme. His success by means of offerings and the characteristic service system within the military referred to as the intisab are illustrated. Aga probably belonged to the Yenicheri , which mediated dealings between the court and military.

l Survey of the Organizations engaged in Construction

In the late Ottoman period, a clear distinction was drawn between the architects, who were involved in design, and the craftsmen, involved in construction. A court organization of architects called Has Mimar remained in contact with the urban architects, and craftsmen and persisted until the beginning of the 19th century. Villagers and guilds supported the skills and organizations of craftsmen. The region and the family lineage determined their occupations.

l Designs and Organizations

The scale of the grids used for blueprints was S = 1/48. Miniature models were sometimes used as well. The architectural theories were based on mathematical concepts, such as the concepts of algebra and geometry utilised since the Byzantine Empire. The construction site, organizations, and management were supervised independently. Different educational programs were adopted for the court architects, craftsmen, and the military. The education for the court architects was typically conducted by means of lectures using textbooks.