Du Malone writes: In truth, I know very little about the Ottoman empire. I have, however, been following the Ottoman Imperial Archives (@OttomanArchives) on Twitter — a brilliant account the regularly posts images by turn evocative, arresting, and attractive — and that experience has encouraged me to venture more broadly.
I don’t think even Sinan’s name was known to me before reading Sinan: Ottoman architecture & its values by Godfrey Goodwin (Saqi, 1993). According to the author, such ignorance is widespread in the West (though he notes that Christopher Wren sought details of his work when designing St Paul’s).
Goodwin leaves the reader in no doubt of Sinan’s status:
“Underlying his architectural concepts are the mathematical theories and practices of classical Greece. He shared these ideals of proportion and balance with builders in the West and, however different the results may be, his buildings and those of Bramante, Palladio or other members of the great confraternity whose lives ran parallel to his must be seen as part of the same intellectual revolution”.
Goodwin surveys many of Sinan’s works, especially the Selimiye and Suleymaniye mosques. He also considers, briefly but intriguingly, the work of architects trained by Sinan.
For me, the highlights of the book were the analytical sections, in which Goodwin focuses on concepts such as space, form, and decoration. I found his writing on the use of light and dark especially interesting:
“The play of light changes with the seasons and time of day and its qualities vary as well. It must be remembered that unlike Haghia Sophia the Selimiye is to be judged in daytime for it is by day that it functions whereas the great solemnities of the Byzantine church took place by night”.
Though I confess that there were moments when the architectural idiom of his writing defeated me, I much enjoyed reading this book. It is in large format, though on each page the margin next to the gutter is broad. This not only facilitates the placement of photographs: it also keeps the columns of text narrow, making for a comfortable read.