A Cultural Treasure In The Heart Of The Aegean Birgi House

Title deed to the Turkish presence in Anatolia, Birgi has been one of the keystones of our architectural culture from the past right up to today.

Turkmens, aka Turcomans, started migrating across Anatolia from east to west and building settlements in the 12th century A.D. The Turkish beylicates or principalities that broke up following the sultanate of Mesut II of the Anatolian Seljuk State were an important presence, especially in Central and Western Anatolia and in the areas around the Black Sea. Among the Turkish beylicates that ruled these areas in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, architectural traces of the Menteşoğlu and Aydınoğlu still survive in certain parts of the Aegean despite the passage of seven hundred years. The towns of Birgi and Tire especially are virtual open air museums of living cultural memory. For the sake of our culture it is incumbent on us to study the traditional architectural fabric and the life that grew up around it and pass them down to future generations.

Capital of two of the Aegean’s leading beylicates, the Menteşoğlu and the Aydınoğlu, Birgi in its heyday was a cultural and political center. And its evolution as a regional capital in the Middle Ages had a direct influence on its architecture. Besides mosques, tombs, madrasas and hamams dating to the period of the beylicates, early Ottoman buildings and monuments are also encountered in the area. Birgi’s development as one of the leading administrative centers of the period of the principalities, and later of the Ottomans, ensured that it also became a cultural capital as well. The famous Islamic legal scholar, Imam Mehmet Efendi of Birgi, played an extremely important role in the region’s becoming known.

Besides the traditional culture, the Aegean climate was also a significant component in the shaping of Birgi’s architecture. While the clay readily found in the Aegean soil facilitated the making of bricks, at the same time the region’s natural stone and the abundant lumber and wood ensured by its plant cover constituted the basic materials of house construction.

Although some of them suffered destruction during the Turkish War of Independence, a few important examples of civilian architecture at Birgi have withstood the test of time and physical conditions to remain standing today. This is encouraging from the standpoint of our architectural culture. Also of enormous importance in terms of preserving our cultural memory, the architectural configuration of the traditional Ottoman street still preserves its living texture, especially in the Quarter of the Great Mosque, one of Birgi’s historic districts. The long, half open or completely open halls (sofa) with rooms opening off them that are characteristic of houses of this period with their wooden upper stories and projections over a stone first story are immediately striking. The window grilles that afford privacy between the interior of the house and the outside world and the eaves that seem to embrace the house like arms just below the roof are the other prominent characteristics of houses from this period.

Situated back to back, the stately mansions of Birgi loom at the end of long, narrow streets paved with cut stones. Among them the Çakırağa Mansion, which dates to the late 18th - early 19th century, is one of the most famous. Besides its stone texture, its summer and winter rooms, its long, half open halls, the Çakırağa mansion also reflects the Baroque style in its stenciled decorations, ornamental woodwork and traditional motifs. Exhibiting almost all the elements of civilian architecture peculiar to Birgi, the Çakırağa as well as the Kerimağa and Sandıkoğlu mansions provide important clues to Birgi civilian architecture.

Another of the most remarkable properties of Anatolian Turkish Islamic architecture is the importance given to water here, where a virtual water civilization developed in all inhabited areas. The fountains, baths, aqueducts and water towers at Birgi, which took over and adapted the contributions of earlier civilizations in its own architecture, bear witness to that water civilization.
Mimari tarihinin en önemli kültür havzalarından biri olan Birgi evlerinin korunması ve kayıt altına alınması yolunda önemli çalışmaların gerçekleştirilmesi gelecek adına umut verici.

It is encouraging for the future that important projects are being realized in the way of preserving and registering the houses of Birgi, one of the most important cultural centers in the history of Ottoman architecture.