Construction Grant for Ebniye Master Builders in The Late Ottoman EraHüseyin Gürsel Bilmiş
The renovations/regulations in the institutional structure of Ottoman State that started with the Tanzimat Era required/ brought out a novel organization. In the process, Hassa Mimarlar Ocağı (The Corps of Royal Architects), the active institution of the Ottoman architecture during the classical period and till the early 19th century, gave its place to the Ebniye İdaresi (Directorate of Buildings), handing over all sorts of building and construction works to the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality). Henceforth, with new regulations at certain intervals, the Ebniye Kanunları (Building Laws) were introduced in an effort to inspect the construction activities. As the most eminent figures of the era, Ebniye master builders became responsible for all stages of construction production processes within the architectural activities. Despite the fact that educated architects started to emerge together with the introduction of the first architecture school, both local and non-Muslim contractors, architects and master builders from abroad remained as the dominant actors till the early 20th century due to the scarcity of schooled ones.
This study reviews the qualitative issues of the ebniye master builders who carried out the construction processes of civil and state buildings, with samples from central and provincial cases based on a number of documents found in the Ottoman Archives. Quality and standard issues in the construction materials of the era together with the troublesome construction activities causing technical and financial problems between the master builders and employers were cited by certain contemporary master builders. As a result of the petitions of master builders stating their troubles and proposed solutions, and the efforts of the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality), it was decided that a şehadetname (construction building testimonial) would be issued to ebniye masterbuilders; however, the method was abandoned after its application for a while.
Osmanlı’nın Son Döneminde Ebniye Kalfalarına Yapı İnşa İzni VerilmesiHüseyin Gürsel Bilmiş
Osmanlı Devleti’nin kurumsal yapısında Tanzimat dönemi ile başlayan iyileştirmeler/düzenlemeler, yeni bir teşkilatlanma gerektirmiştir. Bu süreçte Osmanlı mimarisinin klasik dönem ile 19. yüzyıl başlarına kadar etkin kurumu olan Hassa mimarlar ocağı, yerini Ebniye İdaresi’ne bırakmış, her türlü imar ve inşa işleri Şehremaneti’ne devredilmiştir. Bunu takiben belirli aralıklarla yapılan yeni düzenlemelerle Ebniye Kanunları çıkarılarak inşa faaliyetleri denetim altına alınmaya çalışılmıştır. Mimari faaliyetlerde dönemin en önemli aktörleri olarak ebniye kalfaları, yapı üretim sürecinin tüm aşamalarından sorumlu kişiler hâline gelmişlerdir. İlk mimarlık okulunun açılmasıyla eğitimli mimarlar yetişmeye başlamışsa da bunların sayılarının azlığı nedeniyle hem yerel hem de dışarıdan gelen gayrimüslim müteahhit, mimar ve kalfalar 20. yüzyıl başlarına kadar Osmanlı mimari faaliyetlerinin başat unsurları olmuşlardır.
Bu çalışmada, Osmanlı Arşivi’nde tespit edilen bazı belgeler ile sivil ve kamu yapılarının inşa süreçlerini yürüten ebniye kalfalarının niteliksel sorunları merkez ve taşra örneğinde ele alınmıştır. Dönemin yapı malzemelerinde meydana gelen kalite ve standart sorunları ile dönemin kalfalarının teknik ve mali açıdan işverenle sıkıntı yaşamalarına sebep olan sorunlu inşa faaliyetleri, yine aynı dönemin bir grup kalfası tarafından dile getirilmiştir. Kalfaların mevcut sorunları ve bunların çözümüne yönelik önerilerini belirttikleri dilekçeleri ile Şehremaneti’nin bu yöndeki çalışmaları sonucunda ebniye kalfalarına bir sınav ile şehadetname (yapı inşa izni ruhsatı) verilmesi kararlaştırılmış, bir süre uygulama imkânı bulan bu yöntem daha sonra terk edilmiştir.
Master builder, a key factor in the construction production within the Ottoman architectural organization, is described with similar explanations in the terminology. Accordingly, a master builder such as a bricklayer master builder or a joiner master builder, is an assistant figure ranked between an apprentice and a master. In the modern sense, he is an assistant architect who acquires expertise and enforces the projects of the architects in the field. In the Ottoman era, the term was used to address the head person and technical inspector of various worker groups in a construction site. In that sense, he is an assistant and implementing person responsible to the ebniye khalifa.
Construction production at various architectural styles and techniques began to rise together with the increasing innovation movements in the Tanzimat. Efforts were made to overcome this period in an environment where the number of well trained and qualified master builders/masters/architects was limited. Regarding the increased construction activities after the Tanzimat, the deterioration of the construction material standards (in terms of price, quality, measure, diameter, etc.) and the troubles caused by unskilled people with no construction knowledge, which is understood to have been common at the time, were reported officially by a group of master builders before the First Constitutional Period. The main resources of the study are archival documents, some of which will be put forth for the first time in this study, and the cases that were published in the central and provincial press. This study mentions the carried-out works/prepared plans based on the records and requests of the non-Muslim master builders who triggered the process of exams requirement for the construction master builders in the late Ottoman architectural organization. The obstacles to the application of exams to master builders/architects are presented within the frame of the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality) and the Şûrâ-yı Devlet (Council of State) decisions, and the effects of this situation are exemplified with a Bursa case.
A group of non-Muslim Joiner Master Builders submitted their complaints with regards to one of the most significant issues of the era in the construction sector and proposals towards its solution with a petition to the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality) in the late 1875. Shortly, the content of the petition consists of the problems led by disqualified master builders working in the construction and the construction material standards of the era. As reported, some master builders working in the sector at the time were doing the pricing at their own discretion, causing financial harms to both public and state treasury, and the building owners were having arguments with the joiners for days due to their losses.
The diameters, measures, costs of bricks, wood, and all the materials to be used in the Capital and the provinces were determined by erbab-ı vukuf (experts) till that time, and all the materials were manufactured, priced and delivered accordingly. However, it was stated that the abovementioned method was not followed during those dates, and people manufactured improper woods, erratic bricks and all kinds of other materials in a similar manner without paying attention to the measurements. The master builders who presented the petitions in order to avoid having such issues asked for a set-up of a guild and a chamberlain to be assigned for the joiners as for the other craftsmen.
Upon the demand of the master builders, the certificate prepared by the Şehremaneti Keşif İdaresi (Istanbul Municipality Directorate of Surveys) was assessed by the Şehremaneti (İstanbul Municipality). Troublesome master builders were not knowledgeable enough to prepare building plans and they were not known by the Şehremaneti İdaresi (Istanbul Municipality Directorate) themselves and were not acknowledged officially in the bureaucratic system. Even though these illegal buildings constructed by those incompetent people were located and interfered with, that was not enough due to the weakness of sanction power of the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality). Another problem was the lack of trustworthy and experienced master builders in the surveys and contracts of works given by the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality). That problem had to be resolved by introducing regulations in order to prevent such cases. In this way, the surveys and contracts of construction activities would be done as it was supposed to be.
In accordance with the schema prepared by the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality) towards the solution of these problems, an exam would be carried out under the supervision of a commission. Master builders would be classified into three groups according to the results of the exam. Since the constructions they were going to undertake were to be different from each other in terms of their size, the first group of master builders would be superior to the second group, and the second group would be superior to the third one. Taking their superiority over each other and providing a guarantor, these people would be given grants for constructions. Sealed/approved by the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality), sample copies of the documents containing the name/record, hometown, and place of residence of the master builder would be registered to a special account book. The names of those people acknowledged by the exam would be announced in the newspapers so that they would be known by the public. In the event that a dispute occured between the acknowledged master builders and building owners, these issues would be dealt with by the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality). If the buildings were contracted to a joiner who did not have a grant or to a person from another group, and the building owner suffered a loss, then those cases would not be considered by the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality). If unauthorized joiners or other people attempted to construct, they would be fined. The purpose of the announcement that the state would not consider cases about constructions contracted to unauthorized master builders was to direct the public to reliable and skilled master builders. One of the obstructions in the achievement of this objective was the problem of finding qualified staff in the construction sector. Although this practice was designed in this manner, the allocation of construction works only to master builders who passed the exam and granted allowance to build would pose a problem for those who did not take the exam even if they were skilled.
The requirement of an exam for master builders in the Capital had similar effects in the provinces as well. A piece of news dated 1892 revealed that the architectural environment in Bursa at the time was not so different from the Capital, and this situation was closely being monitored and voiced by the press. According to the newspaper, master builders in Bursa were supposed to taking such an exam. As all residents and even the visitors of the city knew/saw, the existence of (incomplete) buildings with framed and covered wood on the streets was a evidence of the presence of unqualified master builders who could not make the projects according to the provided budget due to poor financial planning and, thereby, leaving the constructions unfinished.
Even though the practice of authorization of the ebniye master builders via an exam was accomplished, it fell through in practice. Despite the fact that Sultan Abdulhamid II asked for the formation of an exam commission and holding the exams again, the Şehremaneti (Istanbul Municipality) did not make any attempts for that, and the task was decelerated. In 1909, the Şûrâ-yı Devlet (Council of State) discussed granting a diploma to unlicensed architects and master builders disclosing their capabilities with an exam and a fee considering their levels, taking into account the fact that the banning of those without a grant from construction would cause a social problem in terms of maintaining and supporting a family. Ultimately, the Şûrâ-yı Devlet (Council of State) abandoned the exam practice and arrived at the conclusion that a certain amount of fees would be charged merely from the master builders who would prove their skills by applying to the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (Academy of Fine Arts).