As 2008 marked the centenary of the birth of Sedad Hakkı Eldem, probably the most important name in 20th century Turkish architecture, the Ottoman Bank Museum honored him with two exhibitions and their accompanying catalogs.

The exhibition “Sedad Hakkı Eldem (1908-1988) I Early Years” focused on the first 23 years of the architect’s life until his first built work in 1931. These were his formative years as a young architect before he embarked on an academic career at the Academy of Fine Arts. The exhibition material, drawn from the private collections of Edhem Eldem and Ceyda Eldem, encompassed all the would-be architect’s personal drawings, notebooks, sketchbooks, and travel notes starting from childhood until 1930. This collection of visual and written materials has been digitized by the Ottoman Bank Archives and Research Center and is now accessible for online research under the code AEXSHE.

The second exhibition, “Sedad Hakkı Eldem II: Retrospective” highlighted the transformation of an aspiring architect from an elitist late Ottoman background into an early Republican intellectual and a key exponent of the nationalist discourse in architecture. The fact that Eldem’s personal archive was the largest of its kind in Turkey, and that he extensively documented his own production with the original data, led to conceiving an archive exhibition both in presentation and content. Despite rumors that the Sedad Hakkı Eldem archive might have been dispersed or lost after the architect’s death, it had, in fact, been donated by his heirs to the Vehbi Koç Foundation, from where it was retrieved through Bülent Erkmen’s research.
The exhibition, which also included crucial contributions from Edhem Eldem’s personal archive, was made possible, in part, through the interest expressed by Erdal Yıldırım, director of the Vehbi Koç Foundation, and the support extended by Rahmi M. Koç. After a preliminary classification undertaken by the Sadberk Hanım Museum, the selected exhibition materials loaned to the Ottoman Bank Museum were catalogued and converted to digital format by the Ottoman Bank Archive and Research Center to make them accessible for online research.

The use of these documents are subject to the approval and citation of their actual owners.-

Sedad Hakkı Eldem

Sedad Hakkı was born on August 31, 1908, in Istanbul, as the third child of İsmail Hakkı Bey and Azize Hanım. Owing to his father’s diplomatic duties, Eldem’s formative years, almost from the moment of his birth, were shaped by a cross-cultural upbringing between Turkey, Switzerland, France, and Germany. After attending primary school at the Ecole Cuchet in Geneva, he spent the first years of his secondary education at the Altes Realgymnasium in Munich. When the family returned to Istanbul in 1924, Sedad Hakkı was just 16 years old and had probably only completed his first or second year of high school in Geneva. In all likelihood, he felt no need to finish his secondary education since he wanted to enter the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul and a high school diploma was not required for his acceptance.   

From 1924 to 1928, he studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts, and graduated first in his class, which earned him a further three years of post-graduate studies in Europe. He thus boarded a ship bound for Marseille passing through Athens on the way. After touring France during his first year, he traveled

Turkish Pavilion at the Budapest International Fair, 1931

around Britain from London to Chester and Glasgow, in 1929. Finally, he sailed back to the European continent and arrived in Berlin via Paris and Munich. His travel notes reveal that he worked briefly in the offices of architects Adolphe Thiers in Paris and Hans Poelzig in Berlin. Following his return to Istanbul in 1930, he held an exhibition in Istanbul at the Academy of Fine Arts and one in Ankara, at the Turkish Hearth Association Center. These presented all the work he had produced during his stay in Europe as well as some sketches and survey drawings done at the Academy. With these two exhibitions, he was featured in the April 1931, issue of the magazine Mimar [Architect]. The same year, he produced his first built project, the Turkish Pavilion at the 1931 Budapest International Fair. In the fall of 1931, after a very productive year, he joined the faculty at the Academy of Fine Arts. Around the same time, he also set up his own private practice thus launching a long and very prolific professional career.

This archive contains the exhibition materials of the Sedad Hakkı Eldem II retrospective, which addressed the totality of the architect’s built and written works during the period where he assumed his leading role in contemporary Turkish architecture. It is organized under nine subheadings:



Köskler ve Kasirlar [Kiosks and Pavilions],
proposed book cover design

This section contains Sedad Hakki Eldem’s publications, examples of rough drafts, and various interviews held with the architect whose major role in Turkish architecture stemmed as much from his architectural projects as from his discursive production. Although he never defined himself as an architectural historian, his monumental 5-volume work Türk Evi [Turkish House], in particular, retraces the origins of a tradition long assumed lost. The material in this group is listed under the original names the architect gave his publications.




This group includes 12 sketchbooks the architect used over the long time span between1928 and 1985.


Telegram sent by Bonatz

The section consists of varied correspondence over the whole period from 1930 to 1988, including letters from his wife Fahire, letters from Bonatz, correspondence related to the Aga Khan Award, letters exchanged with Jak Kamhi, and various financial records.




Natural Architecture Seminar, Haluk Baysal Folder, Kütahya Houses

Aiming to broaden the scope of his search for a national architecture, Sedad Hakki Eldem initiated a project known as the National Architecture Seminar at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1936. The stated objective of the seminar was to come up with an inventory of hitherto neglected public or anonymous architectural works and thus fill the existing gap in this field. Nonetheless, although the seminar was ostensibly focused on the documentation of Ottoman residential architecture in particular, it would actually amount to the creation of a nationalist architectural practice reflecting the nation-state building process of the time. Much of the seminar material was destroyed in the catastrophic fire that broke out at the Academy in 1948. This section comprises some examples of student projects submitted to the National Architecture Seminar.



This subheading regroups various personal photographs, pictures of the Safyurtlu family, photographs from journeys abroad, pictures taken during a trip on the occasion of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, photographs from the Academy of Fine Arts, and old Istanbul photographs. In addition, there is an old map of the Kagithane district as well as aerial views of the region.

Sedad Hakki Eldem playing tavla (backgammon).









Various newspaper cuttings about himself or on topics that interested the architect, which he collected and filed under headings such as “Turkish House” or “shanty towns,” clippings from the magazine Yapi spanning the years 1942 to 1947, and diverse brochures.


The materials here document the three year internship and Wanderjahre in Europe following young Sedad Hakki Eldem’s graduation from the Academy of Fine Arts. All the works were produced in the same time span but represent different approaches and techniques, and have been regrouped under the headings used in the exhibition without any particular chronological or thematic organization.

Searching for the ContemporaryTurkish House Typology I (1929-1930)


Houses in Neoclassical and Arts and Crafts Style, Public Buildings, Interiors I 1922-1928 English Castle Style


Reinforced Concrete Mosque Designs I – Paris and Berlin


Taslik Coffeehouse, 1947-1948 Maçka, Istanbul

This section represents more than half of the archival material and encompasses the totality of Eldem’s architectural works over the time span from 1931 to 1987. The material is organized according to the list of buildings in the exhibition catalog and, in addition to nearly 150 architectural projects, includes some of the projects Eldem took on as a consulting architect in his later years. There are also examples of the old waterways, aqueducts, and reservoirs of Istanbul – another of the architect’s areas of interest – which he was archiving. Certain drawings that are not unequivocally recognizable are filed under “UNIDENTIFIED.” Where a tentative identification of a building exists, it is included in parentheses.




This part of the archive consists of materials compiled during the architect’s long teaching career at the Academy of Fine Arts. The collection provides information both on the architect himself and on architectural studies at the time. It includes, academic correspondence during the period from 1939 to 1984, documents concerning course contents and programs in the period from 1957 to 1970, student projects, newspaper cuttings related to the Academy, several issues of the newspaper published by the Academy of Fine Arts, and old blueprints of the Academy.

Academy Student Projects – Library Project
Enis Park

Academy Student Projects
Aydin Boysan