Situated in Küçüksu, on the Bosporus shore between the Küçüksu and Göksu streams, this neo-baroque pavilion is one of in Istanbul’s attractions most worth visiting and exploring. It was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid to serve as his summer residence. It’s quite small, but it is nice and opulent. The architect is Nikoğos Balyan who was one of the member of famous Balyan family which was of Istanbul’s Armenian minority, reflecting the trend among the Ottoman court to eschew Muslim architects for Christian, and western-oriented, points of view.
Byzantine historians first mentioned this attractive part of the Bosporus on the Asian shore, and it became one of the imperial parks known as Kandil Bahçesi (Lantern Garden) during Ottoman times. Sultan Murad IV was particularly loved the Küçüksu area; he even named it Gümüş Selvi (Silver Cypress). During the Patrona Halil Revolt, which was the point of no return of the Tulip era, the Kağıthane area was the main target of the revolts, which demolished almost all the buildings here. Sultan Mahmud I, who ascended the throne following the Tulip era, did not choose Kağıthane again for his entertainment, he instead preferred the Bosphorus shore. The Grand Vizier noticed this, asked the sultan if the wanted to build a pavilion, and the answer was a resounding “yes”. So, the Grand Vizier ordered the construction of a pavilion. The Küçüksu Pavilion began its life as a two-story timber structure and continued to be used by Selim III and Mahmud II for short stays during country excursions and hunting trips.
The western influence on Turkish architecture reached its peak during the reign of Abdülmecid. A time during which the Ottomans were falling head over heels for anything that resembled of Europe. Sultan Abdülmecid is usually known for his politics he was also an architect of Istanbul; during his reign Istanbul’s appearance changed radically. He demolished the Küçüksu Pavilion placed the current stone pavilion in its stead, in the new style used for the Dolmabahçe and Ihlamur. As for the decorative aspects, both the interior and exterior display influences of western motifs: the opulent double flight of steps that curves around the ornamental pool outside; the ceilings laden with carton-pierre molding, and richly painted designs; a myriad of fireplaces made of Italian marble; parquet floors with different patterns in every room; European style antique furniture and art. Sechan, stage designer at Vienna State Opera, was charged with decorating the interior.
The pavilion consists of two main levels and a basement that takes up an area of 15×27 meters. The basement holds the kitchen, larder, and servant quarters, while the upper two floors have four rooms that open up to a central room. The rooms at the facade have two fireplaces while the others have one each. There are so many fireplaces made of Italian marble of various colors in diverse styles that it makes Küçüksu Kasrı look like a museum of 19th century fireplaces. The elegant parquet floors have different patterns in each of the rooms, which are furnished with European style furniture, crystal chandeliers from Bohemia, carpets woven in Hereke, paintings, curtains, and furniture. Unlike the city’s other palaces, Küçüksu Pavilion is not surrounded by high walls, but by cast iron railings and gates on all four sides.
After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, all palaces and royal lodges were repossessed by the state. The Küçüksu Pavilion began to be used as a state guesthouse for some years. After a restoration in 1994, the pavilion has been open to the public. It then underwent a long period of restoration. A good is that the government proved to be a good caretaker; the building is in splendid condition, with original furniture, and it looks brand new both inside and out.
Some notes about the Küçüksu Pavilion
- The Küçüksu Pavilion was built for short stays during country excursions and hunting. So, the bedroom was not needed for Küçüksu Pavilion. Don’t be surprised it is missing
- The pavilion appeared in the James Bond film “The World is Not Enough” as the mansion of a woman in Baku and in the popular Bollywood film “Ek Tha Tiger”
- There’s a cafe on the pavilion’s grounds just on the shore of the Bosporus. You can enjoy the beautiful views of the Rumelia Fortress and Bosphorus while you drink a cup of Turkish tea or coffee.
- The staff doesn’t know any language other than Turkish. However, you can take a leaflet with a brief description of the pavilion at the entrance.
- Küçüksu Pavilion also attracted the attention of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who sometimes visited the pavilion to work or relax. Celal Bayar, an important politician in Turkey’s history, and the third president of Turkey, used this pavilion just like Mustafa Kemal, visiting it from time to time.
Photo Credits: Romuald Le Peru