In Istanbul, there is a mosque on every hill. Cruising along the Bosphorus, either for pleasure, or like the majority of Istanbul’s denizens, for transit, you cannot help but notice that the city’s landscape would be dramatically altered without the mosques of the city. In Ottoman Baroque: The Architectural Refashioning of Eighteenth-Century Istanbul
(Princeton University Press, 2019), Ünver Rüstem
takes a stab of a slice of that history, arguing that we should see the eighteenth-century Baroque period in Ottoman mosque architecture as innovative and not derivative in how Ottoman mosque architecture integrated Baroque elements. By doing so, he pushes back effectively against notions of Ottoman decline and demonstrates that such architecture, praised in the contemporary writings of both Ottoman and Western viewers, successfully rebranded the Ottoman capital for a changing world. He also draws our eyes to the complex social process by which mosque design develops, bringing in a cast of characters that includes non-Muslims as much as non-Muslims. On this New Books interview, we walk you through the book, Rüstem’s process, what Baroque means in different contexts and mosque architecture in Istanbul today.
Ünver Rüstem is Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Johns Hopkins University.
Nadirah Mansour is a graduate student at Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies working on the global intellectual history of the Arabic-language press. She tweets @NAMansour26 and produces another Middle-East and North Africa-related podcast: Reintroducing.