Dolmabahçe as a 19th Century Palace
The coastal area of Beşiktaş, where Dolmabahçe Palace is located, is an area that has been the scene of shipping activities in the past as one of the bays of the Bosphorus. This bay, which was a natural harbor for ships to take refuge since antiquity, also attracted the rulers during the Byzantine period and royal palaces were built in this region.
The coastal area, which served as a port where navy ships were anchored and maritime ceremonies were performed during the Ottoman period, was named “dolmabağçe” after the sea was filled in the 16th century. Although the official residence was Topkapı Palace, the “dolmabağçe” region became one of the preferred places to visit and has been used as a royal garden belonging to the sultan and the dynasty. In the 19th century, the group of mansions and pavilions built on this garden were collectively called “Beşiktaş Coastal Palace”. The influence of the trend of renewal and modernization of the 19th century was also reflected in the palaces, as well as in the culture and administration of the Ottoman Empire. Dolmabahçe Palace, which has the title of being the third largest palace structure of Istanbul today, is the most magnificent work created by this trend of renewal.
The Sultan Abdülmecid Period (1839-1861) was the period when the structures of the Beşiktaş Coastal Palace were felt to be incomplete in terms of functionality. These buildings were demolished and the Dolmabahçe Palace was decided to be built instead. The construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace started on June 13, 1843, and was completed on June 7, 1856. In an area of 110 thousand square meters, it is positioned on the Bosphorus coastline, overlooking a magnificent view.
The Architecture of the Palace
The important and famous architects of the period took part in the construction process of the Dolmabahçe Palace: Abdülhalim Bey, Altunizade İsmail Zühtü Pasha, Karabet Balyan, Ohannes Serverian, Nikoğos Balyan and James William Smith. Although the building plan does not stray from the old traditions, the interior and exterior decorations of the palace were intensively based on western styles.
The main structure of the palace is functionally divided into three parts: the administrative “Mabeyn-i Hümâyûn” (Selamlık), where the governmental affairs are carried out, “Harem-i Hümâyûn” (Harem), which belongs to the private life of the sultan and his family, and the “Muayede Hall” (Ceremonial Hall) which is reserved for the important state ceremonies of the sultan. Dolmabahçe Palace is built on 14.595 m2 area and has 285 rooms, 44 halls, 68 toilets and 6 Turkish baths, and is the largest palace in Turkey as a single monolithic structure.
Dolmabahçe Palace, as a structure that emerged from the trend of renewal in the 19th century, also bears the effect of western styles in terms of architecture. Dolmabahçe Palace, which reflects Rococo, Baroque and Neo-classical architectural styles, also differs from Topkapı Palace in terms of architectural plan. While Topkapı Palace has a design that expands and changes according to time and changing requirements, a predetermined design and plan layout has been implemented in Dolmabahçe Palace.
From Sofa Dining to Table Top Feasts الطاولة
Along with the architecture of Dolmabahçe, western influence is also visible in the interior design. The past tradition of seating arrangements with sofas and cushions were replaced by a table seating arrangement, seen as an indicator of modern living, in Dolmabahçe. The Ottoman dynasty followed and applied the thoughts and innovations of the era.
The Ottoman dynasty and society, welcoming innovations as the way of modernization and took the west as an example, experienced the western influences in the political, cultural and social spheres. Dolmabahçe Palace has a very important position in the history as a witness and perpetrator of this process. Dolmabahçe Palace has an eternal value, as one of the first monuments of modernization.
written by Directorate of National Palaces