The Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı was built by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan between 1578 and 1580. Commissioned by Kılıç Ali Pasha, hailed as the “conqueror of the seas,” the bathhouse was built to serve the mariners of Tophane, Istanbul’s seafront district. This freestanding structure is a rare example of a bathhouse whose entire exterior can be seen in full. Its magnificent main dome, which is 14 meters wide and 17 meters high, is the second-largest dome gracing a hammam in Istanbul.

The legend of Kılıç Ali Pasha

Kılıç Ali Pasha was one of the greatest admirals in Ottoman naval history. Born Giovanni Dionigi Galeni at the beginning of the 16th century in Calabria in southern Italy, Kılıç Ali Pasha was captured by the Ottoman navy and forced to work as a galley slave. After taking part in several battles, he converted to Islam, changing his name to Uluç, or the Great, Ali. His skills and success in battle soon earned him his own galley and the rank of captain, and he became known as one of the boldest corsairs in the Mediterranean Sea. He continued to rise through the ranks, and in 1568 Sultan Selim II appointed him governor, or beylerbeyi, of Algiers. 

The turning point in his career came at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, after which he was given the honourary title of Kılıç, or meaning the Sword, and named Kaptan-I Derya, or chief admiral. He appears in literature under various names: In Italy, he is referred to as Occhiali, while Miguel de Cervantes called him Uchali in his epic novel Don Quixote.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı

Commissioned by the celebrated Ottoman admiral Kılıç Ali Pasha as part of a mosque and school complex, the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı was constructed between 1578 and 1583 to serve the levends, members of the Ottoman naval forces, by the great architect Mimar Sinan. Famed for its architectural innovations and majestic dome, the monument is one of the symbols of Tophane, Istanbul’s historical harbour district.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı reopened in 2012 after seven years of meticulous and intensive restoration. Today, we endeavour to provide you with an unforgettable experience in an unparalleled historical setting.

We were awarded the Europa Nostra prize in 2017 for our efforts to keep cultural heritage alive for future generations.

Europa Nostra, the leading heritage organisation in Europe, selected the restoration of Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı for outstanding achievement in 2017, noting “this living heritage site has been revitalised with a combination of expertise in architecture and craftsmanship. It is a prime example of an Ottoman bath, and the success of this project has considerable power of example.”

In addition to the repairs of significantly damaged areas and the fortification of the building, the jury praised the identification of Mimar Sinan’s original design elements that had been concealed over the centuries and the endeavour to return the hammam to its 16th century version. Europa Nostra also highlighted non-obtrusive design solutions to meet modern needs that respect the monument’s architectural integrity.

“This is an important building by the iconic architect Mimar Sinan in central Istanbul which has been expertly restored with the use of traditional techniques and crafts, especially in the restoration of the dome. There is fine attention to detail evident throughout this project,” the jury said.


National Architecture Award

Mimar Cafer Bozkurt Architecture won Turkey’s prestigious architectural prize for its restoration of Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı.

Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı won a National Architecture Award from Turkey’s Chamber of Architects in 2016 in the Building/Preservation category.

Oliver Beer
Call to Sound, 2015
Kiliç Ali Pasa Hamam, Istanbul

To coincide with the Istanbul Biennal Oliver Beer presented Call to Sound, a site-specific Composition for Mimar Sinan’s Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam in Tophane, Karaköy. Call to Sound is part of Oliver Beer’s series entitled The Resonance Project that works with acoustic resonance, and the relationship between sound, music and architecture. Every architectural space resounds at its own precise musical notes – its ‘resonant frequencies’ – which are determined by the dimensions and the geometry of the space. In Call To Sound the viewer is invited to move through the hamam during the composition as singers stimulate the resonant frequencies of the architecture, just as a wine glass can resonate at the tip of a finger.

Indeed, in exactly the same way that an organ pipe resounds at its own particular notes, Beer will be using human voices to stimulate the innate harmonies of the building to resonate. The harmonic response is determined by unchanging acoustic physical and mathematical laws, and the new composition will weave these notes into a form of architectural polyphony which is unique to this specific architecture.

The artist describes how he has ‘tuned’ the Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamam, discovering that tonally the building has a strong Eb as its most important resonant frequency, whilst incorporating the diatonic harmonies of Ab major.

Beer says: “The Kiliç Ali Paşa Hamam was completed in 1580. The notes at which the Ottoman building resonates, and which it amplifies in response to the human voice, have remained unchanged since the day the architect Mimar Sinan conceived its form. The building’s geometry is so perfectly regular, and its surfaces so dense and smooth, it could almost have been designed as a massive and subtle musical instrument.

The harmonic response of the building will remain the same – throughout the centuries – no matter what language and what melodies are sung within its walls. The tonality of architecture, something which is largely unrecognized in modern construction, is an instinctive part of our response to our surroundings: in the prehistoric caves of France for example, recent studies have suggested that concentrations of cave paintings and specific red marks indicate points of particularly strong harmonic resonance.”

Call to Sound took place on Wednesday, 2 September 2015. Every 8 minutes 8 guests were invited to experience the performance.

Oliver Beer

Musical Director:
Eray Altınbuken (ITU/MIAM)

Seren Akyoldaş, Ufuk Atar, Başak Ceber, Nur Diker, Murat Güney, Recep Gül, Baruyr Kuyumcıyan, Deniz Özçelik, Alin Aylin Yağcıoğlu, Canan Tuğberk


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