'Bina Eminliği' in the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth CenturySerkan Erdoğan
The Ottoman Empire tried to establish its authority over a wide area by supporting a systematic and organized structure of public improvements. Hence, the central administration tried to carry out the construction and public structure activities. Naturally, the leading actors of these activities were selected from among talented people from the Ottoman Guild of Architects, who were called “craftsmen (ehl-i hiref)”. In this context, as the boundaries were extended and the number of the activities of public improvements, construction, and restoration increased in time, various missions were developed in the institute; therefore, “construction officials” who proved their adequacy in different branches of the state organization that the Ottoman Guild of Architects inspired became active. This study will address the office of building supervision, about which information became available towards the end of the 18th century, and will provide insights into their activities in Nevşehir, one of the first major cities established by the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia. Studies focusing on the role of the “Bina Eminleri” in architectural history have been limited, predominantly encompassing the 16th to 19th centuries, with the 18th century often overlooked. Therefore, this study addresses this gap by focusing on the “Bina Eminleri”, who were instrumental in the construction of Nevşehir, the first significant city established by the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia. “Bina Eminleri” played an important role in the construction of Nevşehir, which has emerged as a prominent example demonstrating their importance.
On Sekizinci Yüzyılda Osmanlı Devleti’nde Bina EminliğiSerkan Erdoğan
Otoritesini geniş bir sahada hâkim kılmaya çalışan Osmanlı Devleti, bu politikasının temeline teşkilatlı bir imar yapısı koymaya çalışmıştır. Bu doğrultuda merkezî idare, imparatorluk sınırları dahilinde bulunan bölgelere yapılacak olan inşa faaliyetlerini belli bir politika çerçevesinde gerçekleştirmiştir. Bu imar ve inşa faaliyetlerinin aktörleri ise şüphesiz Hassa Mimarlar Ocağına bağlı, ehl-i hiref olarak nitelendirilen imar, inşa ve sanat ihtiyaçlarına hizmet eden uzman ve yetenekli kişilerden meydana gelmiştir. Hakkında ne zaman kurulduğuna dair net bir bilgi bulunmayan Hassa Mimarlar Ocağı, zaman içerisinde sınırların genişlemesine bağlı olarak farklı alanlarda faaliyet göstermeye başlamış, mimarların yanında devletin muhtelif kademelerinde görev yapmış olan devlet görevlileri de bina emini olarak bu müesseseye dahil olmuşlardır. Bina eminleri hakkında ortaya konan kısıtlı çalışmalar da çoğunlukla on altıncı yüzyıl ile on dokuzuncu yüzyıl dönemlerini kapsamış ve on sekizinci yüzyıl geri planda kalmıştır. Dolayısıyla bu çalışma bu eksikliğe dikkat çekmek amacıyla Osmanlı Devleti tarafından Anadolu’da kurulan ilk büyük şehir olan Nevşehir’in inşasında görev yapan bina eminlerini konu edinmiştir. Osmanlı tarihinin ihmal edilmiş bir makamı olan binan eminliği, Nevşehir’in inşası sırasında sahip oldukları ehemmiyeti gösteren önemli bir örnek olarak sivrilmiştir.
In Ottoman architecture, a considerable number of buildings were built. Undoubtedly, the leading actors who created these buildings were among talented people who were members of the Ottoman Guild of Architects and were called “craftsmen (ehl-i hiref)” and were experts in public structures, construction, and art. Although the exact date of establishment of the Ottoman Guild of Architects is unknown, it is believed that the guild was integrated into the centralization activities during the rule of Mehmed the Conqueror. The Ottoman Guild of Architects became the one and only responsible unit for public improvements and construction activities to be conducted or planned in the Ottoman lands, as well as structures such as bridges, bastions, and castles, which can be urgent and crucial in the event of a war. The number of these members (in the guild) who were in the service of construction with the architects they trained increased over time, and, depending on this increase, the scope of the group widened. In parallel with these improvements, the representatives of the Ottoman Guild of Architects were integrated into the administrative organization in the provinces. These representatives, who found a place in the provincial organization, were called “esnaf-ı mimar” (construction tradesmen). An architect who was among these tradesmen was responsible for thirty-three different groups of tradesmen such as auger, plasterer, horasan maker, cage maker, paver maker, blacksmith, glazier, lead maker, su-yolcu (an occupation related to hydraulic works), etc., varying depending on the geographical conditions of the regions. Construction officials were located in areas where construction tradesmen were deprived and tried to fill the gap of this group. These officials served similarly to project assistants; they kept track of the expenses for the construction, purchased the building materials, and dealt with the daily wages of the masters and workers. In compulsory and necessary situations, senior civil servants who were on other duties or retired yet reliable and expert in the field were appointed to become construction officials. This occupation, considered a part of contractual civil service and given as much importance as being an architect, also allowed architects to focus on their art without getting involved in financial matters. The most important duty of construction officials was to ensure that the financial matters were sensitive, transparent, and reliable and that all expense books were kept independently. These expense books, registered by construction officials, are prominent documents that present some information such as when the large buildings were constructed, where, in what quantity, and for how much the materials were brought from, how many workers worked for the construction, how much they were paid, and how much the building cost. This system was considerably functional, although construction officials sometimes cut expenses and left the chief architects in a difficult situation. Indeed, architects, who were all artists in the way they presented their work, were not involved in financial matters and were kept away from responsibilities; hence, they could practice their art peacefully. - This technique was also important for the architects to protect themselves against possible accusations on financial matters.
As a last note, construction officials, who were selected for their principle of honesty and appointed to serve for a long time at any state level, played a crucial role in making the cities festive and prosperous. Especially Nevsehir, founded in the first half of the eighteenth century by the order of Damat Ibrahim Pasha when Turkmen tribes in the region settled, was established under the personal supervision of the construction officials. In this particular city, the administrative organization was not fully established; therefore, the construction officials were given considerable authority as well as the opportunity to have the versatile authority that would affect the buildings to be constructed in the region directly or indirectly. Accordingly, the construction officials who worked in Nevsehir for about ten years conveyed and reflected the orders and instructions from the capital to the city and contributed significantly to the city’s prosperity. Based on all these, this study aims to give general information about the duties and responsibilities of construction officials, who were not considered to have a position and were forgotten in the Ottoman administrative organization. With this humble study, which brought together general and scattered information, it might be possible to have at least a few insights about construction officials, about whom there is almost no information in the literature and who served at various dates and places for about four hundred years.