Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Bazaar as new Building Type

The Bazaar 

       Intense economic and commercial activity in the Ottoman Empire required new building types as for instance the kervansaray for lodging the traders or the bedesten, a secure building where the most valuable goods were traded. But not only single buildings like these made up the commercial hubs. The whole structure of an Ottoman town gravitated around an immensely commercial area, the bazaar.

       Consisting of one or several streets a bazaar, also called carsija, is lined with small shops with their craftsmen workshops attached. In the big bazaars as the ones in Skopje or in Bitola each street specialized on one craft so that you could find a street of saddlemakers, another of blacksmiths or one of silversmiths.  The bazaar is not only the economic center of any Ottoman town but also the gathering point for prayer, taking a bath or socializing. Surrounded by the Islamic threesome, that is mosque, han and hamam, the bazaar thrived with live at all hours.
        Bazaars reached their peak of commercial activity in the 17th century and after a period of stagnation again during the 19th century. Skopje and Bitola stood out with the greatest bazaars in Rumelia (the European part of the Empire), but even smaller towns had its own bazaar, sometimes consisting of a single street.

The Bazaar of Bitola

        At the zenith of Ottoman rule the bazaar of Bitola or Monastir as it was called in Ottoman times had over a thousand shops. Although strongly altered during different periods, be it by a changing commercial situation, by conflagration or by wars, this bazaar even today is a most lively market in the center of town with visible influences of oriental urbanism. Small one-storey shops, some of them a reminiscence of 19th century traditional architecture, alternate with revival style buildings, following the fashion of West European influences at the period. Building materials range from rubble to brick and sometimes stone. Some of these little shops still preserve their big protecting iron shutters, just as in old times. If you walk through the bazaar at commercial hours (not on Sunday afternoon as I did) you definitely fell the oriental way of living, with all its bustling livelihood, a transposition to another period and culture.

       The bazaar in Bitola together with the one in Skopje are the biggest remaining ones in Macedonia. 
       In case you want to complete information on architecture from the Ottoman period in the Macedonian area my illustrated book is now available:
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia: The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Hamam as new Building Type

The Hamam                                                                         
        Although  bath houses have been built already by the Greeks, the Romans and also by the Byzantines, the Ottoman architects improved this building type significantly. In contrast to the Roman bath houses for instance the Ottoman hamam is supplied with flowing water instead of stagnant water, a device especially appreciated by the hygienic-minded Muslim. In addition to its basic function these hamams served also as a meeting point of the Ottoman society, where young and old, rich and poor mingled. Each town had several of these public baths, generally one in every quarter. Many of these bath houses were built as double or cifte hamams (cifte=double) allowing for male and female users at the same time. To a single hamam men and women had access to the facility at different hours.
       Structurally, a hamam consists of at least one big square room serving as dressing room, and several smaller ones. From hot to warm to cold rooms, each served for a different purpose, as for instance scrub massages, bathing or laundering. Even a beauty parlor and a coffee corner were included. The exterior of an Ottoman bath house shows in most cases an austere decoration consisting of horizontal brick and stone layers, similar to many mosques while its interior may be richly decorated with friezes, muqarnas (stalactite-shaped decoration) and other decorative elements. 
       During the Classic Period of Ottoman Architecture, that is the 15th and 16th century, these hamams were built as major monuments, as in the case of Daud Pasha Hamam in Skopje.

Daud Pasha Hamam in Skopje 
        If you cross the old Stone Brigde (Kamen Most) to the Bazaar quarter the first monument you can identify easily by its thirteen domes is Daud Pasha Hamam. In spite of the different sizes of these domes and their seemingly irregular placement they achieve a most harmonious result. The walls supporting these domes are kept in the traditional austere fashion of alternating stone and brick layers, a technique called opus cloisonné. Only scarce windows and two portals enhanced by pointed arches and architraves interrupt this austerity. Despite this almost complete absence of exterior embellishment the hamam imposes itself as one of the most monumental works of Ottoman secular architecture in town. 

       Built in the 15th century as a most magnificent double bath house (the largest in the Balkans), it offered several hot steam rooms of varying degrees, cold baths as well as other facilities like a laundry service, a beauty parlor or a coffee corner. Two separate entrances lead to the respective large dressing rooms. Both are covered by a huge dome, perforated by star-shaped glassed openings and crowned by a lantern for a perfect lighting. 
       One of the most remarkable qualities of this monument is its superb interior decoration. Intricate muqarnas that isstalactite-shaped ornaments decorate squinches and pendentives below the domes. Turkish triangle friezes as transition between walls and dome are another characteristic decoration type. Several walls show artistically carved friezes in low relief .
       At present, the monument houses the National Gallery of Macedonia, but is well worth a visit to view its exquisite architecture alone.

       If you want to know all about Ottoman buildings in Macedonia you have now at your disposition my recently published book:
Teresa Waltenberger, Architecture in Macedonia: The Ottoman Heritage, Skopje 2014  Publisher: Logos-A