Girardelli, Paolo

Boğaziçi University

Research Topic: Landscapes of the Eastern Question. Beyoğlu Before and After the 1831 Fire

Dr.Girardelli (Boğaziçi University, Dept. of History) is an art and architectural historian working especially on the visual/spatial dimension of European and non-Muslim presence in the late Ottoman cities. He was Aga Khan Fellow at MIT in 2005-06, and chercheur invité at the Institut national de l’histoire de l’art (INHA, Paris) in 2013. His publications focus on the relation between space, diplomacy, religion and communal identities.
The 1831 fire of Pera is a rather neglected chapter of the urban and architectural history of Istanbul. Up to that date, the development of this faubourg – resulting from the expansion extra-muros of the Genoese, walled settlement of Galata – had followed substantially Ottoman lines, with timber residential structures occupying loosely the slopes toward Marmara and the Golden Horn. Even the landmarks of Catholic religion and European diplomacy, on and off the Grand Rue (today İstiklal), adopted many features of the local architectural culture. The first part of Dr.Girardelli’s research is meant to show how, beyond physical destruction, the 1831 fire obliterated a hybrid, trans-national landscape of balances and overlaps between local and foreign visual/urban cultures. The second part will assess the projects for the reconstruction of the embassies in unprecedented monumental scale, and mostly in the forms of Western academic classicism. Using visual and textual archival sources from distant institutions and observing the European embassies of Beyoğlu as a dynamic, interacting, and evolving system (rather as isolated national landmarks), will help understand how the so-called “Eastern Question” and the was inscribed, encoded and re-written in the rich urban palimpsest of Pera by multiple, diverse and competing actors.