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D’Aronco in Turkey

D’Aronco in Turkey

Having obtained the prestigious assignment from Sultan Abdülhamid II to design the pavilions for the Ottoman Exhibition, D’Aronco moved to Istanbul in 1893 to begin his work. When the exhibition was cancelled due to the devastating earthquake of 1894, the architect was called upon to collaborate on the reconstruction. In fact, the Sultan proposed him to stay in the capital to contribute to the impressive restoration work on mosques and monuments damaged by the earthquake. He then designed residences and private homes, public and religious buildings, where his perspective broadened towards the East, making him discover a new and fascinating universe of forms and structures. Between 1900 and 1905 he left historicism and eclecticism behind and with his imaginative creativity, inspired by the modernist and Secession wind blowing in from Vienna, he created buildings whose polycentric dimension includes the suggestions of Ottoman architecture that are innervated in western architecture. In the design of the villas, he reinterprets the spaces of the Ottoman house, showing a compositional freedom nourished by the eclectic polycentrism and syncretism of the Ottoman art. The reinterpretation of the sofa-divanhane is emblematic, revealing affinities with the hall but also with Palladio's tetrastyle atrium as in the summer residence of the Italian embassy in Tarabya. The plans for the Fahry Bey house in Anadoluhisari (1904), the Mehmed Sadik Effendi house in Feneryolu (1904-1907), the project to enlarge and reform the Djemil Bey house in Erenkeuy (1904), the Botter house in Fanaraki (1906) document his passionate search for modernisation, which was appreciated at the architecture exhibition held within the framework of the International Exhibition of Sempione in Milan in 1906. Locati considers him as the head of “the modern secessionist movement in Italian architecture” and notes his adherence to Turkish housing culture as his most innovative characteristic: “A powerful desire for new expressions of art, well satisfied by an ardent imagination and fervid creativity, the search for beauty through all forms without any fear or contrition of creating new ones, a feeling of exotic art nurtured and developed on the sweet sea of Constantinople, in the gardens blooming with orange trees, in the white houses breaking through the transparent blue sky of Turkey”. Between 1903 and 1904, he designed the Small Mosque in Galata, the Tomb Fountain and Library complex for Seyh Zafir in Yildiz, the Collection Hall and Library for Memduh Pacha in Arnavutköy. These projects show the extent of the modernisation in terms of genius loci proposed by D'Aronco, as building typologies such as a prayer hall or a monumental memorial complex for a convent of dervishes, become an opportunity to reformulate the decorative patterns of the Viennese Secession by adapting them to the vast repertoire of Islamic and Ottoman ornamentation.

D’Aronco’s special attention to Ottoman architecture goes hand in hand with a strong belief in the primacy of the new expressive language that allows him to propose modernity in a cultural context where traditional values are a fundamental point of reference. His architectural proposals are welcomed because the innovative measure retains a strong identity value, which can be traced back to that East that for many western architects and artists marks an unparalleled source of inspiration.