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Founded in 1884 as the ‘Kütüphane-i Umumi-i Osmani’, the Beyazıt Library, located in Istanbul’s Beyazıt Square, was established to mirror the national libraries found in Europe. The first library to be established in Turkey, its building was originally a soup kitchen and Caravanserai connected to the Beyazıt Mosque complex, one of the oldest surviving imperial mosques in Istanbul built in 1506 by Sultan Beyazıt II.
After its opening, the library shelves were filled with theological books from the nearby Beyazit Camii as well as donations, and by its third year the collection had more than 4,000 books. After Friday prayers, members of the palace would settle into the seats that were reserved in their names and read. During WWI and Turkey’s War of Independence, the library served as a storehouse, reopening in 1934 after the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The library is known for having important collections of newspaper and journals from the Ottoman era and the beginning of the Turkish Republic, as well as posters, postcards, and maps.
In 2006, Turkish international firm Tabanlıoğlu Architects took on the renovation of this historic library with stunning results. Over the building courtyard, the architects placed a transparent and inflatable structure that allows for natural light to filter in, while the interior is dotted with transparent glass pavilions. These pavilions stand as modern objects within the dimensions of a historic space, creating a unusually harmonious confluence. Apart from their visual charm, the pavilions also ensure the perfect atmosphere for preserving the library’s rare manuscript and book collection including Ottoman, Arabic, and Persian manuscripts.
The building’s organization was also altered with the main entrance now in the courtyard, the modern Turkish publications on the second floor, periodicals on the first, and the more precious collections on the ground floor. During construction the remains of a Byzantine church also came to the surface, which is quite the common occurrence in Istanbul, where so much history still remains to be discovered. With a philosophy that revolves around respect and minimal intervention, the firm decided to exhibit the remains, which can now be viewed through a glass roof.
Established in 1990 by Murat Tabanlıoğlu and his father Hayati Tabanlıoğlu, the Istanbul based architecture firm develops innovative design alternatives for residential buildings, offices, industrial facilities, shopping malls, and transformation projects.