In the 19th century, which was described as the most fervent period of the Ottoman for opening to the west, an Armenian family greatly influenced the architecture, which is still seen in present day.The Armenian architects called as the Balyan Family were held in high honor by the high state officials of the Ottoman in the 19th century. An enormous scale of architectural works have the signatures of the architects of this family. The Balyan Family was at the forefront of most of the monumental works which reflect the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire, creating the magnificent architecture of modern Western İstanbul.
During that period, the high state officials of the Ottoman reconciled with different elements to act together. The Balyan Family produced many important personalities who acted as “palace architects” that we call Hassa Mimarı (Property Architect).
In many important palaces, towers and mosques, the genius architecture of the Balyan Family is at the forefront. In particular, Garabet Balyan, Agop Balyan and Sarkis Balyan left immortal artifacts.
The Balyan Family and Palace Architecture of the Ottoman
Today, we see the design of the Balyan Family in many Ottoman palaces that have won the admiration of both native and foreign tourists: Dolmabahçe Palace: Dolmabahçe Palace, in which Atatürk, the founder of Republic, passes the last days of his life and passed away, is the mutual construction of Garabet Balyan and Nikogos Balyan. As being one of the most exceptional examples of Baroque architecture, it still continues to welcome thousands of tourists every year.
Beylerbeyi Palace: Sarkis Balyan built Beylerbeyi Palace in the term of Sultan Abdülaziz. In its term, the palace hosted the world’s leading state elders. It was in a complex structure with Summer Palace, Marble Mansion, Yellow Mansion, Barn Mansion and two different Sea Mansions.
Çırağan Palace: Abdülmecit, one of the prominent sultans of the West, demanded a palace completely unique to the West in 1857. The construction of the palace started that year and was continued under the order of Sultan Abdülaziz following the death of Sultan Abdülmecit. It was completed in 1871. The Çırağan Palace, built on three mono blocks in terms of architecture, was built by Sarkis Balyan and Kirkor Narsisyan.
Küçüksu Pavilion: Known as the promenade area of the Ottoman Empire, Küçüksu Pavilion, between Göksu and Küçüksu Stream, is a magnificent building that Nikogos Balyan built under Sultan Abdülmecit. It was a seafront building completed in 856 and used as a hunting lodge. Its architectural details continue to impress tourists today.
The Twin Palaces: The Twin Palaces, built in 1856 and 1859 for Cemile Sultan and Münire Sultan, the daughters of Sultan Abdülmecid, are also known as Salıpazarı Palaces. The Twin Palaces, one of the coastal palaces of İstanbul, now serve as a training location to the Mimar Sinan University. The architect Garabet Amira Balyan positioned them as seashore palaces, where he preferred simple design.
The Mosques Carrying the Signature of the Balyan Family
Today, the mosques and the palaces in most of the photographs on websites and guides of İstanbul have the architectural lines of Balyan Family. The mosques, bearing the patents of the Balyan Family who preferred more Baroque architecture style when designing mosques, are listed below:
Ortaköy Mosque: The photographs of the Ortaköy Mosque, which many people coming to İstanbul have turned into a tradition, overlooking the sea and seeing the Bosporus, are taken in the courtyard of the mosque that was designed by the Architect Nikogos Balyan. Even though it is known as Ortaköy Mosque due to its location name, its real name is grand Mecidiye Mosque. The Ortaköy Mosque, built with the request of Sultan Abdülmecit, is one of the most elegant mosques of İstanbul and draws attention as a high windowed and bright architectural structure of Baroque style.
Dolmabahçe Mosque: The Bezmialem Valide Sultan Mosque is called the Dolmabahçe Mosque among the public. The mosque which Garabet Balyan built for Bezmialem Valide Sultan, mother of Sultan Abdülmecit, is very elegant and quite remarkable in terms of its position.
Nusretiye Mosque, which Karkor Balyan built by Murat II, along with the Valide Sultan Mosque, are located in Aksaray. Sarkis Balyan and Hagop Balyan, also bearing the traces of this family, made the architectural drawings.
Masterpieces of the Balyan Family
In addition to the aforementioned palaces and mosques, we also encounter the magnificent design of the Balyan Family in the military buildings and towers. Especially, described as the ornament of the Bosphorus, the Kuleli Military High School is a wonderful structure that was drawn and implemented by Garabet Amira Balyan. It is called by this name due to the education gathering-place that is located in the center of two different towers.
Selimiye Barracks carries the feature of being one of the most magnificent barracks of İstanbul. The architectural drawings were completed by the architect Krikor Balyan, and helped create the silhouette of İstanbul. Located on the campus of İstanbul University and standing 85 meters high, Beyazıt Tower is a monumental structure which is a design of Senekerim Balyan. Today, The Fire Tower has been lost among large buildings due to the fact that it is located on campus, but it still exhibits its architectural beauty generously.
The Dolmabahçe Clock Tower, built by Sarkis Balyan and Nikogos Balyan upon the request of Abdülhamit, became one of the symbols of the city, noted in the pages of history as one of the latest masterpieces submitted to İstanbul by the Balyan Family.