Ottoman architecture lives on in wood

Some of the most beautiful aspects of mosques in Turkey are the minber (pulpits), »»

Some of the most beautiful aspects of mosques in Turkey are the minber (pulpits), vaaz kürsüsü (sermon pulpits) and mihrab (niche indicating direction of prayer), all made from woodwork, and today the Turkish Religious Foundation runs a special atelier in Ankara that aims to let these articles from religious life in mosques live on in a manner they deserve.

This shop, the Siteler Doğrama ve Mobilya (Siteler Woodworking and Furniture Atelier), runs within the larger framework of the Ankara Kocatepe Modern Store Management Industry and Trade AŞ (KOMAŞ). This special Ankara atelier oversees the production of wooden pieces for mosques with Selçuk or Ottoman-style architecture. Formed in 1991, the atelier produces a wide range of woodwork items for mosques. Some of the items turned out by this atelier include minber, mihrab, vaaz kürsüsü (sermon pulpit), rahle (bookstands), doors and kepenk (window shutters).

Interestingly, the popularity of these items is such that they are sent to not only mosques all over Turkey, but also abroad. For example, the Sidney Mosque in Australia, the Donetsk İstanbul Mosque in Ukraine, the Migennes and Vandome Mosques in France, and the Hüizen and AJ Amersfoot Mosques in the Netherlands all feature pieces from this Ankara atelier. There are also many mosques in Germany that contain pieces from here. The atelier also specializes in repairing broken or worn out items from Selçuk and Ottoman mosques.

KOMAŞ General Manager Yılmaz Aydoğdu notes that this atelier has attracted many experts in woodwork and other traditional arts, and that it runs on an expert-apprentice basis, with younger, less-experienced workers learning from experienced masters.

Aydoğdu notes also that there are very few experts in the kind of woodworking this atelier offers, saying: “There is a need for experts who know the details of woodworking and how to repair these mosque pieces in a manner that stays true to their origins. With the experts who work at our atelier, we are able to see our historical heritage passed on to future generations while repairing the pieces.”

He continues on to say that this atelier produces all kinds of other wooden decorations, home furniture, and even crates suitable for air cargo that can be used abroad. The atelier also offers project and engineering services.

There are 20 people working at the Ankara atelier, and they generally use oak, pear tree and walnut tree wood, as well as wood from the African limba tree. “We work according to projects and we are not able to produce series of items,” says Aydoğdu.

Aydoğdu notes that his atelier offers up reasonable prices compared to firms offering similar services, adding: “But of course, our prices are higher than companies that pay no attention to anything artistic and are just trying to produce functional items. Our atelier works to serve, not really to make a profit, so it is not a profit-based organization. But we are also aware we need to allow this art to live on.”