Ozayr’s Favorite

For lingering too long in the Underground Cistern of Istanbul I have been set the task of documenting a building so compelling that it is not just Ozayr’s favorite mosque, but his favorite building too–the Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosque. Words cannot of course do a building justice, but I hope that mine can help you to understand why Ozayr favors this building so much. Designed by Mimar Sinan, an Ottoman architect of untold renown and someone most certainly comparable to the likes of Michelangelo, this mosque sits on a site that descends to the south, in view of the Sea of Marmara. The site must have been quite difficult to design within as it is surrounded on all sides by a dense urban fabric. Before entering, our professor also mentioned to us that Sinan did not alter the sloping topography of the site, instead choosing to place his courtyard two stories higher to compensate.

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Upon arriving at the site I first noticed the beautiful procession to the mosque with three separate entryways that converged on a small courtyard. The two minor points of entry wound around the sides of the site and were filled with vegetation bringing a sense of tranquility not found outside the mosque’s walls. The main entrance, in particular, ascended into the courtyard, and as I walked the stairs my eye was lead upward, first to the dodecagonal fountain placed in the middle of the courtyard and then to the mosque rising behind it. Reaching the courtyard, I noticed that its size was dwarfed by the entirety of the mosque which seemed to tower over all of us. Stopping to sketch on the steps of the mosque I realized that even though it towered above me, its height did not disrupt the intimacy of the courtyard which took me away from the hectic urban life and placed me in a calmer setting.

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After exploring the exterior our group was graciously allowed to enter the mosque for a very brief period of time. Taking off my shoes and stepping inside, I was immediately struck by the rich decoration that pervaded the entire space. It is said that Sinan was given fragments of the Kaaba–a cuboid structure and one of the most sacred sites in Mecca–by the Sultan of the time for his magnificent services. These precious fragments were then brought back here and placed within, one above the entry framed in gold and other pieces in the minbar and mihrab, thus demonstrating how strongly Sinan felt towards the Mehmet Pasha Mosque. As I stood in that quiet, peaceful place of spirtuality absorbing Ozayr’s vast knowledge of the place, it really hit me how much architecture could provoke and touch upon my personal feelings.

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Ozayr hastily lecturing us on the interior of the Mosque.

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