Two of Professor Necipoğlu’s publications have recently been digitized and made available to view for free online. Details and links are below.
Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power: The Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Gülru Necipoğlu, 1992)
In her 1992 book, Gülru Necipoğlu brings together largely unpublished sources, both written and visual, along with information derived from the architectural remains to uncover the processes through which the meaning of the palace was once produced, before it came to represent a stereotyped microcosm of oriental despotism imbued with the exotic otherness of the East. Today the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul seems a haphazard aggregate of modest buildings no longer capable of conveying imperial power. Yet it is at once the most celebrated of all Islamic palaces and the least understood. Necipoğlu brings together largely unpublished sources, both written and visual, along with information derived from the architectural remains to uncover the processes through which the meaning of the palace was once produced, before it came to represent a stereotyped microcosm of oriental despotism imbued with the exotic otherness of the East. She relocates the Topkapi in its historical context, a context that included not only the circumstances of its patronage, but the complex interaction of cultural practices, ideologies, and social codes of recognition. Necipoğlu focuses on the imperial iconography of palatial forms that lack monumentality, axiality, and rational-geometric planning principles to decipher codes of grandeur that are no longer obvious to the modern observer. She reconstructs the architectural and ceremonial impact of the palace through a step-by-step tour of its buildings, demonstrating how the palace was experienced as a processional sequence of separate courts and seemingly disjointed architectural elements that were nevertheless integrated into a coherent whole by passage through time and space. Far more than an analysis of the architectural program of the palace, Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power raises questions and provides answers to fundamental concerns about the ideology of absolute sovereignty, the interplay between architecture and ritual, and the changing perceptions of a building through the centuries, a building that drew upon a wide range of Palatine traditions, mythical, Islamic, Turco-Mongol, Romano-Byzantine, and Italian Renaissance.
The Topkapi Scroll: Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (Gülru Necipoğlu, 1996)
Since precious few architectural drawings and no theoretical treatises on architecture remain from the premodern Islamic world, the Timurid pattern scroll in the collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum Library is an exceedingly rich and valuable source of information. In the course of her in-depth analysis of this scroll dating from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, Gülru Necipoğlu throws new light on the conceptualization, recording, and transmission of architectural design in the Islamic world between the tenth and sixteenth centuries. Her text has particularly far-reaching implications for recent discussions on vision, subjectivity, and the semiotics of abstract representation. She also compares the Islamic understanding of geometry with that found in medieval Western art, making this book particularly valuable for all historians and critics of architecture.
The scroll, with its 114 individual geometric patterns for wall surfaces and vaulting, is reproduced entirely in color in this elegant, large-format volume. An extensive catalogue includes illustrations showing the underlying geometries (in the form of incised “dead” drawings) from which the individual patterns are generated. An essay by Mohammad al-Asad discusses the geometry of the muqarnas and demonstrates by means of CAD drawings how one of the scroll’s patterns could be used to design a three-dimensional vault.