Mimar Kemaleddin

Ahmet Kemalettin or Kemaleddin (1870-July 13, 1927), widely known as Mimar Kemalettin (Kemalettin the Architect) and Kemalettin Bey, was a renowned Turkish architect of the very late period of the Ottoman architecture and the early years of the newly established Republic. He was among the pioneers of the first national architectural movement.

Ahmet Kemalettin
Mimar Kemaleddin.jpg
An old photograph of Mimar Kemalettin
DiedJuly 13, 1927
Alma materHendese-i Mülkiye Mektebi
Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg
BuildingsTayyare Apartments,
Ankara Palas
Tayyare Apartments, today the "Crowne Plaza Hotel Istanbul Old City", designed by Mimar Kemalettin Bey.

His lifetime saw intense and important changes for Turkish history and culture.

Early yearsEdit

Ahmet Kemalettin was born 1870 in a middle-class family to Ali Bey, a naval captain, and his wife Sadberk Hanım at Acıbadem neighborhood of Kadıköy district in Istanbul. In 1875, he began with his primary education at "İbrahim Ağa İbtidai Mektebi". He continued his secondary education in 1881 on Crete (then part of the Ottoman Empire) due to his father's assignment. Returned soon after to Istanbul, he finished the high school.[1]

In 1887 at the age of 17, he entered the School of Civil Engineering (Ottoman Turkish: Hendese-i Mülkiye Mektebi‎, today's Istanbul Technical University). Ahmet Kemalettin graduated as an engineer with honours in 1891. He then remained at his alma mater and worked as an assistant for four years. During this time, he created his own works in his office he had opened outside the university.[1]

In 1895, promoted by his scholar German architect August Jachmund, designer of the Sirkeci Railway Terminal in Istanbul, and supported by a state scholarship, he went to Germany, where he was educated two years in architecture at the Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg in Berlin. Afterwards, he worked two-and-half years in various architecture offices gaining professional experience.[1]

In 1900, Ahmet Kemalettin returned home and resumed work at the university. Following the departure of August Jachmund, he assumed his post as lecturer. In 1908, he played a pioneering role in the formation of the first vocational organization for engineers and architects in the Ottoman Empire, the "Society of Ottoman Architects and Engineers".[1][2]

Designing and buildingEdit

Whilst still a student at the Hendese-i Mulkıye (State School of Engineering) where he commenced his studies in 1887 he received the Medal for Industry. He must have been hardworking and creative. These personal attributes may have been related to his greater interest in the lessons of Prof. Jasmund on architecture than in engineering and to the fact that Prof. Jasmund chose him as his assistant.

Kemalettin shows himself to be a designer open to learning and experimentation and is also a portrayal of a self-reliant architect.

However great an influence Jasmund and the German connections are on his perception of design, the wide scope of his references is also important. The Art Nouveau of Ratip Pasha Mansion, a building of the early era, or the connection of Harikzedegan Apartments with French public housing, the Orientalist flavour in the design of the Evkaf-ı Humayun Nezareti (Ministry of Imperial Foundations), the eclectic style of the 3rd Foundation Han or the Empire line of the Husnu Pasha Tomb cannot be ignored.

A Kemaleddin work doubtless presents an image overflowing with ideological connections. Only here his creativity also feeds his ideology. The transformation of his ideology into a school of architecture is essentially down to his creative talent and self-confidence, if also fed by his industriousness and organisational expertise or teaching skill/teaching discipline. His life was already over when he ascertained the eventuality of this confidence being shaken. His architecture was a tale that prevented the hero from experiencing a tragic end, from an untimely death.

Restorer with principlesEdit

On 27 Rebi-ül ahir 1327/18 May 1909, he was appointed head of architecture at the Imperial Ministry of Foundations. The possibility of designing and bringing to fruition new building projects is an irresistible passion for an architect, but running maintenance and restoration works on historical buildings, the basic and traditional function of the Ministry, was also a very special learning opportunity. Kemalettin took the intelligent approach of evaluating the two fields together and allowing each to foster the other. Restoration was an opportunity for productivity in which he drew on and applied information that was the source for the experimentation that differentiates architectural language.

Whilst perceiving restoration as a method of interpreting traditional architecture and making the linguistic infrastructure for its renewal, he attempted to manage and give direction to a field whose principles were as yet not clearly defined.

He knew that restoration was not an ordinary repairs job. He taught it.

He pioneered in the field by restoring a great number of Ottoman monumental structures employing for the first time a scientific approach.

He restored the Yeni Cami Hunkar Gathering Place with passionate enthusiasm. But his principal performance was certainly the Mescid-i Aksa and Harem-i Serif project. The skill he demonstrated in the restoration of the Mescid-i Aksa won him international acclaim and an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Teaching and organizingEdit

On graduation from the Hendese-i Mülkiye he was appointed to the teaching staff of Technology and Architecture at the same school and as Prof. Jasmund's assistant. On his return from Germany where he went to gain knowledge and experience he took up his post at the Hendese-i Mulkiye again. And from that point on he continued to teach. He educated hundreds of students at Sanayi-i Nefise Mekteb-i Alisi (the Academy of Fine Arts), Konduktor Mekteb-i Alisi (the Conductor School) and Muhendis Mekteb-i Alis (the Academy of Engineering).

They were the years when the school of civil engineering was founded and developed as part of the Muhendishane-i Berri-i Humayun (the Military School of Engineering). At the stage when the curriculum of the school was being developed Kemalettin Bey was running a large number of different courses. It was an open field ranging from Technology and Architecture to Pen and Ink and Shadow Drawing and from Calligraphy to Iron Works. But what is certain is that he transmitted his enthusiasm to the students.

When he was appointed to the Evkaf Nezareti, he took his students to the Building and Reparation Technological Assembly to meet the anticipated demand for intensive and fast production. This permanent staff composed of the talented architects and engineers he had chosen was to turn into a school and its office was to become a production centre, as it were, of the design concept given the name of national architecture.

But that was not all.

It was Kemalettin Bey who pioneered the founding of the Ottoman Society of Architects and Engineers, and who personally penned the call to the meetings of the Foundation through the Tanin newspaper.

His final role was membership, and subsequently the presidency, of the Council of Fine Arts founded by the Ministry of Education in 1926.

Thinking and writingEdit

The writing of Turkish architecture and the history of architecture is a field that opened up late and has not yet accumulated enough strength. Even today it does not appear to have reached the necessary level. Kemalettin Bey is an unrivalled pioneer on this subject. His thoughts on living and professional models are also incomparable. On the one hand there is his identity as an architect and professional experience in that he designed many buildings, most of which he built; on the other hand there is the duty that is obligatory for the teaching profession of transferring information and experience within specific systematics; a writing function arising from the synergy of this dichotomy and a realisation of the need for questioning, evaluation and historical contextualisation. When research and thought of the genetic codes of a work and profession are perceived as a mission, the first or earliest written account of our history of architecture has begun. Of course the content and the approach can be debated. But not his pioneering.


The availability of information and documentation of the first years of Kemalettin's life is very limited. All that is known is that he started at the Ibrahim Aga primary school near his home in 1875 and that he learned French and Arabic at the special school, to which his father was appointed, opened for children of army officers in Crete in 1881.

When he returned to İstanbul he continued his education at the Numune-i Terakki school, which provided a model education. He graduated from this school, where the most well known teachers of the era gave lessons such as the mathematician Mehmed Nadir or the astronomer Huseyin Efendi. In 1887, he was accepted into the second class of the Hendese-i Mulkiye. He was awarded the Medal for Industry while he was still a student and graduated in 1891.


Structural engineering and architecture are taught together at the historical Muhendishane (Hendese-i Mulkiye) in Halıcıoğlu, which Kemalettin starts attending in the second class. Kemalettin shows more interest in Prof. Jasmund's architecture classes than in engineering classes. Nevertheless, his training as an engineer makes itself felt in all his designs.


On 18 May 1909, he was appointed head of architecture at the Imperial Ministry of Foundations (or, the General Directorate of Foundations, as it is now known). The years of this period of office, 1909-1919, were the most productive era for Kemalettin Bey from the perspective of architectural design and applications.

As well as running maintenance and repair works on historical structures, the traditional role of the ministry, he also designed and built new construction projects.

The restoration works that made it possible to become acquainted with and examine Ottoman architecture directly and in a concrete manner were his field of reference for new building designs. He took the information source of trials that distinguish the language of architecture experimentation from these works and applied it. His restoration works are the least well known and least documented of Kemalettin Bey's works. We can find out about the restoration of the Yeni Cami Hunkar imperial gathering place from written documents, and the restoration of Fatih Mosque and its rest house and Nuruosmaniye Mosque from the drawings in the archive of the General Directorate of Foundations.


Edirne Karaağaç Tren İstasyonu (Karaağaç Railroad Station in Edirne) designed by Mimar Kemalettin Bey

After the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Monarchy in 1908, Ahmet Kemaleddin Bey was appointed director of the Construction and Restoration Department at the Ministry of Foundations (Ottoman Turkish: Evkaf Nezareti‎).[1][2]

He designed four railway stations for the Oriental Railway Company. For his successful work at the construction of Plovdiv Central railway station, he was tasked with the design of railway stations of Thessaloniki and Edirne. At the railway station of Thessaloniki, only the foundations were completed. The railway station of Edirne could be completed in 1914.[3]

In 1908, he built a girls' high school in Edirne, which went 1910 in education. He was invited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to carry out restoration work on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He accepted the invitation and went to Jerusalem, which had come under British Mandate from Ottoman Empire after World War I. He stayed there a while. For his successful restoration work, Mimar Kemalettin Bey was awarded with honorific membership by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).[2][4] After returning home, he focused his works on buildings in Ankara, the new capital of the Republic.[1][5]

As one of the pioneers of the First Turkish National Architectural Movement, Mimar Kemalettin Bey was inspired by the Ottoman classical architecture, and tried to create a new style by combining the distinct features of German and Ottoman architecture. He rendered the characteristics of Ottoman and Islamic structures so that they reflect the Turkish national identity. He put arches, copings and tiles on the facade of his buildings in foreground, emphasized symmetry and highlighted conventional style with turrets and cornices.[1]

Final yearsEdit

Regrettably Kemalettin Bey's dazzling career crowned by his restoration of the Dome of the Rock[dubious ] in Jerusalem and the RIBA award he won for it did not have a happy ending. The cool stance developing towards the end of the 1920s on the National Architecture comprising Ottoman forms he represented in Ankara, the city he went to on an official call and where he built important structures, led to his alienation and solitude.

However, at that time such alienation was nothing unique either to him or to Turkey. In the 1920s with the emergence of modern architecture that offered a whole new world of shapes countless architects of the generation of Kemalettin Bey, who could not break free from the forms of old, shared the same fate around the same time almost all over the world.

He lived in a time segment that was as full of joy and ebullience as it was of traumatic disappointments. And his life ended in a hotel room in Ankara on 12 July 1927.[dubious ]


Grave of Mimar Kemalettin Bey at the cemetery of the Bayezid II Mosque in Istanbul.

Ahmet Kemalettin died on July 13, 1927, in Ankara at the building site of Ankara Palas as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 57. He was survived by his wife Sabiha and son İlhan Mimaroğlu, who became a renowned composer. His corpse was transferred to Istanbul, and was laid to rest at the Karacaahmet Cemetery. Some years later, without the knowledge of his family his grave was moved to the graveyard of Bayezid II Mosque, due to the construction of a road between Kadıköy and Üsküdar, which went through the cemetery on the spot of his grave. Reburied at the new site without a headstone, his grave was discovered in the 1990s. In 2007, his burial place was restored.[2][5][6]

Notable worksEdit

He designed among others the Tayyare Apartments, built between 1919-1922 in Istanbul, which were redeveloped in 1985 into luxury hotel premises.[7] His another work Istanbul 4th Vakıf Han was converted into a five-star World Park Hotel.[8]

Notable works of him include:[2]

The tomb made for Mahmut Şevket Pasha, one of the last Ottoman grand viziers, and his aide Ibrahim Halıl Bey and his footman Kazım Efendi is in the Hurriyet-i Ebediye War Cemetery to commemorate those who lost their lives in the events of 31 March 1909. Mahmut Sevket Pasha, known to the people as the freedom Hero for suppressing the uprising in Istanbul as commander of the 3rd Army in the 31 March events, was killed by counter revolutionaries on 14 June 1913.

The design of the tomb has a completely new composition distinguishing it from other tombs by Kemalettin Bey. The tomb consists of a canopy like section that is square plan, accessed on three sides by steps, covered with a double walled dome, and open on three sides, and an adjacent semi octagonal plan structure covered with a semidomed exedra.

Completion of Ankara Palas, a project started by Vedat Tek (1927)Edit

Ankara Palas Hotel demonstrates characteristics of the First Turkish national architectural movement.

This was Kemalettin Bey's first design project after arriving in Ankara. The hotel was designed in 1924 by Architect Vedad Bey, but when he left the project the hotel was built according to Kemalettin Bey's new design and opened for business in the autumn of 1927.

The hotel was the setting for Ankara's important political and social meetings, particularly during the early years of the Republic, and was a venue for welcoming all the important guests of the state.

The large balcony with pointed arches on the axially planned rectangular mass' axis, the raised mass and its domed entrance emphasize its orientalist appearance and monumental aspect. There is a magnificent ballroom receiving daylight from above.

The limitation of traditional decoration to balcony parapets and console stones balances the Orientalist emphasis.

Main building of Turkish State Railways, Ankara (1928)Edit

This is Kemalettin Bey's last design. The foundations of the building were made a month after the architect's death and construction was completed in 1928. These multi storey residences that were actually designed for railway employees were used temporarily and then permanently by the administration.

According to available documents the building that is identified together with the 19th May Square in front of Ankara Station and the station itself was designed as an apartment built around a spacious inner courtyard. However, only one third of the section in the station direction was completed. In spite of the projections made on each axis for axial emphasis, the central corridor plan and texture of the facade with flat square windows is austere. The decorative ironwork of the high gate opening into the courtyard and the large rosace patterned ironwork in the half circle arch above it is incomparable.

Gazi Institute of Education, Ankara (1930)Edit

The building of Gazi Institute of Education (Turkish: Gazi Eğitim Enstitüsü) is one of Kemalettin Bey's last works. Its design was completed in 1927 and its construction in 1930; the same year in which the school began its educational programme .

The building consists of four storeys including the basement and occupies a large rectangular area. Two inner courtyards symmetrically aligned with the entrance axis are surrounded with a corridor system in the axial plan. The midsection on the axis is five storeys high with a sixth floor over the entrance used as an observatorium.

The entrance porch accessed by wide steps is indicated with colossal columns and high arches. On the upper veranda a distinctive balance and decorative accent pattern is achieved with the lintels of pairs of flat arched dwarf.

The classicist fiction of the 'losenge' patterned colonnades in the entrances allow the magnificence of the building to be sensed on a human scale.



  • Yavuz, Yıldırım (1981). Mimar Kemalettin ve birinci ulusal mimarlık dönemi (in Turkish). ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Basım İşliği. p. 372. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  • Yavuz, Yıldırım (2009). Mimar A. Kemalettin: İmparatorluk'tan cumhuriyet'e : (1870-1927) (in Turkish). TMMOB Mimarlar Odası. p. 536. ISBN 9789944897303. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  • Cengizkan, N. Müge (2009). Ali Cengizkan (ed.). Mimar Kemalettin ve çağı: mimarlık, toplumsal yaşam, politika (in Turkish). TMMOB Mimarlar Odası. p. 251. ISBN 9789944897310. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  • Cephanecigil, Gül; Meryem Fındıklıgil Doğuoğlu, Aras Neftçi (2009). Afife Batur (ed.). Mimar Kemaleddin: Proje kataloğu (in Turkish). TMMOB Mimarlar Odası. p. 340. ISBN 9789944897327. Retrieved 28 February 2013.

Image galleryEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Mimar Kemaleddin (1870 İstanbul - 1927 İstanbul)" (PDF) (in Turkish). TCMB. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Tufan, Mesut (16 July 2007). "Artık Mimar Kemaleddin Bey'in de Bir Dikili Taşı Var" (in Turkish). Mimarizm. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  3. ^ "Tarihi Rektörlük Binası" (in Turkish). Trakya Üniversitesi. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  4. ^ a b "The Restoration Project of the Masjid al-Aqsa by Mimar Kemalettin (1922-26)". ArchNet. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Mimar Kemaleddin: Tarihin dönüm noktalarında bir mimar" (in Turkish). arkitera. 25 January 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Ulusal mimarlık hazinesi Kemalettin". Radikal (in Turkish). 12 March 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  7. ^ "Tayyare Apartmanları Crowne Plaza oldu". Sabah Ekonomi (in Turkish). 12 March 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  8. ^ Başaran, Duygu (28 July 2006). "Tarihi yarımadada yeni bir adres Vakıf Han 94 yıl sonra otel oldu". Hürriyet (in Turkish). Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Fethiye Mosque". ArchNet. Archived from the original on 27 January 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2013.

External linksEdit