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MIMAR KEMALEDDIN: Draft for a Prison



An original pencil drawing for a modern prison, made by the most famous and prolific late Ottoman architect Mimar Kemaleddin in the time of the change of the Ottoman criminal code

Pencil drawing on thick paper, 95 x 114 cm (37.4 x 44.9 inches), (slightly dusty and stained , small tears in margins, a larger repaired tear in the image).



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Ahmet Kemalettin or Kemaleddin, known as Mimar Kemaleddin (1870-1927) is most famous architect of the late Ottoman Empire and early Republic of Turkey. After graduating from the School of Civil Engineering, in 1891, Kemaleddin left for Berlin on the advice of the German architect August Jachmund, where he studied at the Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg from 1895 and was later active at various architecture offices.

After his return to Istanbul Mimar Kemaleddin became a prolific architect, known mostly for his apartment buildings, train stations and other public buildings.

In the early 20th century Kemaleddin made a series of plans for prisons, inspired by the western, mostly German architecture. Not only that these news structures corresponded to modern hygienic standards, but they also integrated the inmates in an useful and organized community. Mimar Kemaleddin drafted several drawings for three sizes of prisons: for between 75-100 people, 100-300 and 300-450 prisoners.

A large need for modern and organized prisons emerged in the late Ottoman Empire due to political, judicial, economic and administrative developments as well changes of the criminal code, influenced by the West, which resulted in punishment by imprisonment for many criminal offences.

The design of the building on our drawing with small cells, lavatories, washing rooms and larger rooms, possibly for the staff, most probably belongs to this Mimar Kemaleddin’s series of designs for prisons. It curiously appears to be based on a form of central European Renaissance castles, with a square courtyard and towers with staircases on the corners. One of the larger rooms is as a novelty shaped as a late Gothic hall chapel with a traditional polygonal apse.

Mimar Kemaleddin’s drafts for prisons were extremely progressive for its time and were never completed in their planned form.

Possibly most famous completed structure, based on a square plan with a courtyard and towers on sides, as designed by Mimar Kemaleddin on our plan from 1906, is Sultanahmet Cezaevi or Sultanahmet Jail, which is today a luxury hotel Four Seasons in Istanbul. It was the first prison building of this type built in Istanbul and its construction only begun in 1918/19.

The Signature

Mimar Kemaleddin signed his plans in Ottoman as well as in French, in westernized version Prof. Kemal Architecte (plus added year). The signature on our plan corresponds to other Kemaleddin’s signatures in Latin letters (for comparison please see: Aydın 2019, p. 15).

References: Cf.: Remzi Aydın, Mimar Kemâleddin Bey’in Hapishane Projeleri / Architect Kemaleddin Bey’s Prison Projects, OSMANLI SANATINDA DEĞİŞİM VE DÖNÜŞÜM, 2019, pp. 11-36.

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