Photos from the spring 2013 Honors trip to Istanbul (part 1)

In addition to being chair of the Visual & Critical Studies and Art History Departments at SVA, Tom Huhn also serves as coordinator for the Honors Program, a non-degree interdisciplinary curriculum aimed at students who want to pursue additional studies in the liberal arts alongside their studio work. (You can read more about it here.)

During the spring break of their third year, students in the Honors Program take a trip abroad, where they get first-hand exposure to art, architecture, and culture that’s different from what they usually see in New York. Past destinations have included the Czech Republic and Cuba; last spring’s trip took Tom and the Honors students to Istanbul, Turkey. This trip was different from most, in that several VCS students, instructors, and staff members also went along.

After their return, VCS Systems Administrator Justin Elm uploaded more than a hundred photos from the trip to the VCS Flickr page; I thought I’d present a few of them over the next couple posts. The shots below include portraits of the group, along with some beautiful views of a few of the places they visited. The captions include links to sites with more information about some of what you’ll see here.

The group shares a welcome dinner at the reataurant Sofyali 9.
The group shares a welcome dinner at the restaurant Sofyali 9.

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A view of Istanbul at night from the rooftop of Hotel Buyuk Londra, where the group stayed.
A view of Istanbul at night from the rooftop of Hotel Buyuk Londra, where the group stayed.

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A view of the Aya Sofya, one of the most well-known pieces of historical religious architecture in the world.
A view of the Aya Sofya, one of the most impressive examples of ancient Byzantine architecture in the world. The building was originally constructed as a Christian church for Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, but the tall, narrow minarets were added later, after Istanbul came under Muslin control and the church was converted to a mosque. (You can read more about its history and architecture at this entry on ArchNet.)

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The Honors group inside the Aya Sofya.
The Honors group inside the Aya Sofya. A virtual panoramic tour with several interior and exterior views is available at this link.

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A view up from the Aya Sofya nave toward the upper gallery.
A view up from the Aya Sofya nave toward the upper gallery. The circular medallions (which contain the names of Muhammad and the first caliphs) also reflect its later use as a mosque.

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Jesus Christ, in a detail from one of the Aya Sofya mosaics.
Jesus Christ Pantocrator, in a detail from the Deësis, one of several beautiful Byzantine mosaics in the Aya Sofya’s upper galleries. The Aya Sofya mosaics were plastered over after 1453, and were only uncovered and restored relatively recently.

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Another mosaic: the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus flanked by two saints.
Another mosaic: the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus between Emperor John II Comnenus and his wife Irene.

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Inside the Basilica Cistern, originally built by Emperor Justinian I in 532 CE for use as an underground reservoir.
Inside the Basilica Cisterns, originally built by Emperor Justinian I in 532 CE for use as an underground reservoir.

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Another view through the Basilica Cisterns.
Another view through the Basilica Cisterns.

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An upside-down Medusa head at the base of one of the cistern's columns.
An upside-down Medusa head at the base of one of the columns near the northwest corner of the cistern. A second column nearby has a similar head placed sideways at a 90 degree angle to the ground. Their origins and the reason for their placement are unknown, and various theories have been put forth.

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The Sultan Ahmet Mosque, built between 1609 and 1616. The influence of the older Aya Sofya's architecture is very easy to see from the outside.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, built between 1609 and 1616. The influence of the older Aya Sofya’s architecture is very evident from the outside.

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Inside the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. It's also known as the Blue Mosque, due to the bold blue tile visible here and in the next image
Inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. It’s also known as the Blue Mosque due to the bold blue tile visible here and in the next image.

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A view of the central dome at the Sultan Ahmet Mosque. For a virtual tour of the interior and exterior, visit this link.
A view of the central dome at the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. For a virtual tour of the interior and exterior, visit this link. (There’s also another one here.)

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A group portrait taken near Galata Bridge.
A group portrait taken near Galata Bridge. For a little about the lives of people who live and work near the bridge, check out the interactive non-linear documentary Planet Galata by Florian Thalhofer (more information here).

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Near the Istanbul Spice Market (a.k.a the Egyptian Spice Bazaar).
Near the Istanbul spice market (a.k.a the Egyptian Spice Bazaar).

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A vendor's display inside the Spice Market.
A vendor’s display of dried fruits and confections inside the Istanbul spice market.

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The group visits the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, built by Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan between 1561 and 1563. (That's VCS student Justine Wong in the green coat.)
The group visits the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, built by prolific and influential Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan between 1561 and 1563. (That’s VCS student Justine Wong in the green coat.)

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A look upward toward Sinan's architecture and the intricate İznik tile designs that complement it.
A look upward toward Sinan’s architecture and the intricate İznik tile designs that complement it. (For a 360° panoramic tour of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, visit this link.) 

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VCS Department ChairTom Huhn and faculty member Peter Hristoff together at Rüstem Pasha Mosque. Peter also teaches
VCS Department Chair Tom Huhn (left) and faculty member Peter Hristoff (right) at Rüstem Pasha Mosque. Peter also teaches a version of his Artist’s Journal class in Istanbul as part of SVA’s Summer Arts Abroad program, and has done several projects with the women of the Priene Hali rug weaving collective in Gullubahce, Turkey.

That’s it for this installment of images from the 2013 Honors trip to Istanbul. I’ll be back in a few days with the second half of the images, starting with a visit to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

One final note for this post: on May 31st, the largest civil uprising in modern Turkish history broke out in Istanbul, when police confronted citizens protesting the planned demolition of a large green area called Gezi Park as part of an urban development project. The protests soon spread throughout Turkey and expanded to encompass other issues. It’s a major social and political development in the area that hasn’t received much coverage here in the U.S., so I thought it would be a good idea to include links to some stories about it. Here are two articles and a short documentary about the protests:

Turkey protests: Clashes rage in Istanbul’s Besiktas (BBC News, June 3, 2013)

Police and protesters clash in Istanbul (Al Jazeera, June 17, 2013)

Istanbul Rising (Vice News, June 7, 2013)

 

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