THE BALYAN FAMILY
The Balian family was one of three well-known Armenian families in Ottoman Turkey. The founder of the family is regarded as Keresteci Bali Usta, who left his birthplace, the village of Derevenk in Kayseri to settle in Istanbul in the early 18th century. He was subsequently appointed imperial architect. He was succeeded by his son Kirkor Amira, who was the architect of the earliest surviving works of the Balian family, which included palaces, mosques and barracks.
Closer intellectual and official relations with Europe beginning in the reign f Ahmed III (r: 1703-1730) resulted in a noticeable western influence on Ottoman art in the second half of the 18th century. The styles and forms of Italian and French Renaissance art exerted the most potent influence on Ottoman Architecture, frescoes and painting, particularly through the work of numerous Italian artists who lived in Istanbul. These influences became more pronounced during the reign of Mahmud II (r: 1808-1839), when Westernization came to be identified with the struggle against reactionism. The government initiated far-reaching reforms of the judicial and educational systems and waged a struggle to divert itself of the debased traditions which obstructed progress. It was in this environment receptivity to innovation and western concepts that the Balians rose to fame. The plans were Western and the style eclectic, although Baroque and Neo-Classicism dominated. The graceful Balian buildings reflect the modern trends and reforming spirit of their age, in the context of a harmonious fusion of Eastern and Western art.
The Balian family was composed nine Ottoman architects: Merametçi Bali Kalfa (d. 1803; after whom the family was named); his sons Krikor Amira (1767-1831) and Senekerim Amira (d. 1833); Krikor’s son Garabed Amira (1800-1866); Garabed’s sons Nigoğos (1826-1858), Sarkis (1835-1899), Agop (1838-1875), Simon (1846-1894), and Levon (1855-1925). They served as imperial architects under six Ottoman sultans from the late 18th to late 19th centuries: Sultan Selim III, Mahmud II, Abdülmecid, Abdülaziz, Murat V and Abdülhamid II. These architects were responsible, individually or in collaboration with each other, for the majority of the buildings for the Ottoman Empire and near Istanbul during the nineteenth century. Prominent among these works are mosques such as Nüsretiye (Tophane), Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan (Dolmabahçe), Büyük Mecidiye (Ortaköy), Küçük Mecidiye (Cirağan), Pertevniyal Valide Sultan (Aksaray), Çağlayan, Teşvikiye, Hamidiye (Yıldız); tombs of Mahmud II and Abdükmecid; Dolmabahçe, Beylerbeyi, Çirağan, Yıldız, Küçüksu, Ihramur, Baltalimanı, Adile Sultan (Kandilli) palaces; Aynalıkavak, Izmit, Mecidiyeköy, Zincirlikuyu, Ayazağa, Kalendar royal pavilions; the Imperial College of Medicine (now Galatasaray Lycee); the Military School (Mekteb-i Harbiye); Selimiye, Davutağa, Rami, Gümüşsuyu, Maçka barracks and Taşkışla, near Taksim; Gümüşsuyu hospital; the Mint (Darphane); Bahçeköy Valide and Mahmud II dams; Terkos waterworks; Bayezid fire tower; Tophane, Dolmabahçe and Yıldız clock towers.
About the Balian Family
Reference: Doğan Kuban, Osmanlı Mimarisi. Istanbul: Yem Yayın, 2007, p.609-610; Pars Tuğlacı, Osmanlı Mimarlığında Batılılaşma Dönemi ve Balyan Ailesi. Istanbul: İnklâp ve AKA kitapevleri, 1981.; Pars Tuğlacı, The Role of The Balian Familyin Ottoman Architecture. Istanbul: Yeni Çığır Bookstore, 1990; Aynalıkavak Kasrı, Istanbul: TBMM Milli Saraylar Daire Başkanlığı Yayını, 1994; archnet.org