For most of us Westerners the words ‘Ottoman architecture’ conjure up something with multiple domes and minarets, as is indeed the classic architectural style of Turkish mosques. But of course people didn’t live in mosques; they lived in Ottoman houses, which have their own distinct architectural style. Various examples of this style can be seen in Kaleici, Antalya ‘s old city center.
The defining characteristic of an Ottoman house is the cumba (pronounced ‘joomba’) , the Turkish bay window. These served multiple functions: They enabled residents to see who was at the door, and they provided guests shelter from rain. There are interesting differences among Kaleici’s cumbas. Here’s a particularly nice one:
Cumbas come in many varieties. Here’s a house with a square, flat-roofed cumba followed by a curved cumba with a pointy roof:
There are also Ottoman row houses, with partial cumbas:
The oldest houses in Kaleici pre-date the Ottoman era and are entirely of stone. Most of the old Ottoman houses had a stone ground floor and a wooden floor above. Many of these have been restored with a top floor of stucco, sometimes preserving the wooden aspect in the cumba.
Since the houses were all fairly similar, the wealthy showed off by having ornate doors:
One family outdid the neighbors by having, in addition to elaborate doors, a mailbox in Italian:
It’s hard to believe that little more than twenty hears ago the entire area was a dilapidated mess where tourists feared to enter. There are still several buildings in need of restoration, and one can imagine what Kaleici looked like before the recent renovations.
Since the increase of tourism in the ’90s the government has been heavily investing in the restoration of Kaleici, and laws require all renovations to preserve the original structures and style.
They don’t seem to be too strict about it though, judging from the example below. Although they did manage to preserve the wooden cumbas, the stucco is gratuitously painted to look like bricks. Even worse, the windows are trompe l’oeil : Not windows at all, they’re just paintings of windows!
Of course the downside of all this development is that Kaelici is now filled with souvenir shops and touts trying to get you to buy something (usually by starting by asking “where are you from?”). But it’s still nice to wander around and appreciate the architecture, especially early in the morning when you practically have the place to yourself.