Vedat Dalokay
A Legendary Turkish Architect, Artist, Writer and Politician

By Prof. Dr. Neelum Naz

In our age of globalization, architecture is in varying degrees regionally or internationally oriented. To achieve fine architecture, good architects, demanding clients, tasteful users as well as keen critics are needed. Autobiographies of many globally renowned architects reveal that they travel far and wide to acquire and import ideas from other countries. In general, architects use their mental faculties to shape their buildings for the world to see and experience, and to pronounce judgment upon. On the whole, architects do their work not because of a quest for money but for an inner satisfaction that comes from creative, well-conceived, well-crafted form and space. But the irony is that the architect's special gift of turning building materials into architectural spaces has almost never been adequately put into words, particularly to the satisfaction of the architect. This is mainly true for non western architects who have handsomely contributed to the world of architecture.

Though the land of Turkey and Pakistan has been the cradle of many ancient civilizations, they became independent states in 1923 and 1947 respectively. Diplomatic relations between the two countries are deep rooted and broad based, and can be traced back to the conquest of the Subcontinent by the Central Asians around 11th century. Four Indo-Muslim rulers, Mahmud of Ghazni (997-1030), Shams-ud-Din Iltutmush (1211-41), Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq (1320-25), Zaheer-ud-Din Babur (1526-30), stand out as embodiments of the Turko-Persian culture that came to prevail in South Asia from the 11th century onward. Babur, the first successful Mughal conqueror of the Punjab, was a Turkish prince and he wrote his autobiography "Baburnamah" in his native language, Turkish. During the British rule (1857-1947), Muslims of the Sub-continent stood against the British government to prevent the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire as a fall-out of the First World War. Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar, along with other Muslim leaders of the Sub-continent, appealed for funds in support of the Caliphate. The Caliphate was abolished but it did not affect the historical bond of friendship between the two countries. Later, under the instructions of Ataturk, the money subscribed by the Indian Muslims was utilized to found the Turkish ?? Bank. During the 1965 Pak-India war, Turkey lobbied CENTO members to provide practical aid to Pakistan. Both of the countries are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and the D-8. Bound by a common faith, people of both the countries have always had special feelings of love and brotherhood for each other.

Language is considered to be the first and the foremost source to absorb cross-cultural influences. The term "Urdu", the national language of Pakistan, is derived from the Turkish word Ordu, meant "a military camp" "foreign", "horde". Apart from many words of purely Turkish origin, there are thousands of common words in Turkish and Urdu which are of Arabic and Persian origin. After the Independence in 1947, Pakistan established close fraternal ties with Turkey. There may have been occasional setbacks but friendly ties are being renewed as Turkey has been accepted as the second homeland of General Pervaiz Musharraf, President of Pakistan. In the backdrop of these historical facts, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz's visit to Turkey in June 2005 has served to renew the ties between the two countries particularly in the sector of education, defense and trade.

Other than language, the architecture of the country also has invariably absorbed Turkish influences. Many foreign architects such as C. A. Doxiadis, Sir Robert Mathew, E. D. Stone, Richard Neutra, Gio Ponti, Louis Kahn were commissioned projects in Pakistan but the Turkish architect, Vedat Dalokay, enjoyed more esteem and his work was highly acclaimed at the national level. Two national monuments of Pakistan, King Faisal Mosque (1976-1986) in the capital city of Islamabad and Summit Minar (1974-1977) in the 2nd largest city, Lahore, designed by Dalokay are of seminal importance. The King Faisal Mosque in Islamabad was constructed as a symbol of the independent Muslim state, whereas the Summit Minar in Lahore was built to commemorate the Second Islamic Summit held in 1974. Other than Dalokay, there are other Turkish architects who have designed buildings of significance in Pakistan.

But the irony is that unlike many European architects, little is known about the Turkish architects and their design intentions in Pakistan. People of Pakistan are greatly indebted to Dalokay for his architectural contributions so this article is a humble dedication to him and to the Turkish people as a token of love and brtotherhood between the two countries.

Dalokay's Life history
Vedat Dalokay, was born in November 1927 in Elazig, Turkey. He was a man of such diverse interests as sketching, painting, writing, politics, travelling and above all architecture. He also knew French and German. Dalokay's father came from a feudal background and was a Director in a local newspaper printing agency. He passed away when Vedat was only 10 years old. After completing his early education from Elazig he entered into the Technical University of Istanbul ( I.T.U) to study architecture. He had the privilege of studying with renowned teacher-architects such as Paul Bontaz and Clemens Holzmeister. On the completion of his studies in 1949, Dalokay received the title of "Yuksek Muhendis Mimar". Immediately after his graduation, he worked for the Ministry of Works and national Post Telephone Telegraph Department (P.T.T.) for a short period.

Name of the Project
Quaid-e-Azam Mausoleum
Vasfi Egeli
Embassy of Pakistan
Sedad Hakky Eldem
Summit Minar
V. Dalokay & Ylhami Ural
Chamber of Islamic Trade
E. Sahinbas
Avari Tower
Ali Kolsal
King Faisal Masjid
Vedat Dalokay
Prime Minister Complex
Vedat Dalokay
Mausoleum of Zia-ul-Haq
Vedat Dalokay
Turkish Embassy
H. Ozbay & T. Basbug

In 1950, he left for France and entered the City Planning Department at the Sorbonne , Paris for his Ph. D. studies which he later relinquished. In France he had the chance to work with pioneers of Modern architecture, Le Corbusier and August Perret. He returned in 1954 with high expectations for a brilliant career and established his architectural office in Ankara. He travelled to different countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Japan, Saudi Arabia, etc. He was the award winner of Turk Dil Kurumu (the Institute of Turkish Language) in 1980 for his story book for children titled "Kolo" which was later translated into German, French and English. The book won several literary awards including "The Best Story book of the Year 1980" and is a marvellous gift to the children of the world full of love, warmth and sensitivity. He writes:

"Dearest, it is the will of our creator, when I die, I know it will take less than a year for me to become a handkerchief of soil...May death come nicely, smoothly, without pain, without suffering...I shall go on living in the yellow beads of wheat, dearest; I shall dissolve in the baby white milk, I shall be the greening in the almond trees that you planted, I shall be in the light in your eyes.... I shall be heard in the call of the red partridge, in the buzzing of the bees; I shall be floating in the cloud that brings the fertility, in the blowing winds, in the crazy River; I shall be in the every note of the earth"

Dalokay was a man of colorful and poetic personality. Though lucky enough to marry his ideal lady in 1957 who bore close resemblance to a sketch drawn by him during his youth, this first marriage ended in a divorce after three children. He remarried in 1977 and had two children from the second marriage. His life, which was full of achievements, ended in a tragic car accident on 21st March 1991 while he was travelling to Kirikkale at the age of 63, along with his second wife and the youngest son. Dalokay lies buried in his favourite city, Ankara. He is remembered by his family members and colleagues as charismatic, versatile, impulsive, hard working, honest, sincere, determined, trustworthy but also unpredictable and egocentric. A loving father, he became a role model for his children to study architecture. His eldest daughter Belemir Guzer, a landscape architect, is running her father's office as "Dalokay & Guzer" and is committed to keeping his name alive

Dalokay became the President of the Chamber of Architects, Ankara (1964-1968) and contributed to the institutionalizing of national architectural competitions. Due to his sudden death, he could not supervise his award winning project Municipality Building of Kayseri "Kayseri Kocasinan Belediyesi Hizmet Binasi" till its completion. One of his lost ambitious aspiration was to become the mayor of Istanbul and carry the remains of the famous Turkish poet, Naz?m Hikmet, from Russia to be re-buried in a mausoleum in the city designed by himself. This, unfortunately was not realized. After his death, a main road junction, a municipality wedding hall and an urban park in Ankara which he designed together with his daughter, were named after him as memorials.

Right:Vedat Dalokay with the Ex- President of Pakistan, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq during a visit to the King Faisal Mosque under construction
Left: Dalokay and his wife with the Ex- President of Pakistan, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq

Dalokay as Mayor
Dalokay's passion for politics was an unusual combination with architecture but it gave him a high profile. The history of Ankara municipality is incomplete without the mention of Dalokay. From the platform of the Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) he made his way into political circles and became the Mayor of Ankara between 1973 and 1977. During these years, Ankara was suffering from problems of rapid urbanization and he had to fight with the central government to get sufficient funds. Being the first architect-mayor of Ankara, his approach to resolving urban problems was democratic and technocratic. He considered Ankara as a book, museum or show-case of Republican Turkey. As delegates from all over the world visited this city, her positive and negative impressions were of serious concern to him. Whenever he was informed of traffic jams, he would immediately look at the city drawings, analyse the problem and come up with a workable solution. He wanted the municipality to be an autonomous body with more authority. Dalokay pursued the double image of architecture and politics and was never intimidated by political power groups to implement his decisions. According to him, a brave man needed to be a little crazy and he did odd things to support his municipal decisions, such as going on hunger strike, sleeping in his office, putting the municipality building on sale, etc. Despite unfavorable conditions, he reserved all of his energy to resolve the urban issues of Ankara and develop its infrastructure, based on future projection; upto the year 2020. To resolve the housing problem of the capital, he favoured the concept of townships/satellites such as "Batikent" which was later practiced by the other municipalities.

Being a strong social democrat, he believed in peoples' power, an even distribution of money and service to the common masses. His political ambitions made him less of an architect and more of a public figure; he tried to seek people's support in order to accomplish his goals. To draw public attention before his address, he would take a bag full of books to the stage. While showing the large number of books one by one to the audience at the opening of his speech, he would convince them about his knoweledge and awareness to address the urban issues. His vitality, and out-spokenness of debate opened up a new link between architecture and government. Dalokay's career, so spectacular in its rise, was sad in its steady decline in 1976; confrontation with a rightist party brought dismissal from the mayorship but he managed to resume later. His shifting of platform from CHP to SHP could not restore his political career. As a token of love with Pakistan, he was influential to rename one of Ankara's main avenues as "Jinnah Avenue" after the Founder of Pakistan. Upon completion of his tenure as mayor he fully devoted himself to his professional practice for the rest of his life.

Dalokay had a great passion for architecture and participated in 6 international and 40 national competitions. 13 of his projects were awarded the 1st prize, while 4 received 2nd prize, 5 the 3rd prize, and 6 of his designs were marked outstanding. But a few of the winning projects could not be realized. He was also appointed jury member in 25 domestic competitions, 2 International competitions and was invited by various Turkish Schools of Architecture to analyze students' projects.

Right: Vedat Dalokay in his office with his architect son.
Left: Vedat Dalokay in front of the King Faisal Mosque in a delightful mood.

Design Philosophy
Istanbul Technical University (I.T.U), had a great influence in shaping the architectural philosophy of Dalokay. He was a committed modernist and worked, like most architects of his time, within the modern principles of 20th century. He learnt rationalism and order from Le-Corbusier to whom he refered as his hero. Other than Corbusier, he was influenced by the philosophies of Sinan, Alvar Alto and Frank Lloyd Wright. He interpreted architecture as a social responsibility and considered it an integral part of life. He firmly believed that design should represent life styles, behavioral patterns and also a way of organizing social relations. To him the architect was a doctor of buildings and he approached his work with serenity and consistency. He had a unique way of looking at buildings and bringing a rationality to them and never hesitated to refer to the work of other architects to illustrate an issue of form or a point of theory. Being a superb artist, he consistently practiced sketching his architectural ideas, which to him was a means of inner expression. He would not hesitate to accept the short-comings of his completed projects. His mental flexibility made him enter into partnership with many other architects. With junior architects in his office he was less like a boss and more like a father and teacher.

Dalokay had great passion for architecture and wanted to be recognized as the best in his profession. The zenith of Dalokay's career as an architect can be traced to the years 1970 through 1980 when he worked intensely on the King Faisal Mosque, Islamabad and Summit Minar, Lahore. From 1970-85 he travelled to Pakistan about 50 times; or about 3 times a year. He learnt enough English to communicate with the local authorities. In Pakistan, he became a legendary architect and enjoyed the privilege to work with two Heads of State, Z. A. Bhutto (1971-77) and General Zia-ul-Haq (1978-88).
King Faisal Mosque, Islamabad
King Faisal Mosque (Shah Faisal Masjid), the 2nd largest mosque of the world, is located in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan. Construction of state mosques, in the newly established capital, Islamabad was a way of expressing psychological freedom from colonial history and constructing political and cultural identities

The impetus to begin the mosque came in 1966, when late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, during his visit to Islamabad liked the idea of the construction of the state Mosque at the proposed site and offered to bear the expenditures as a gift to the people of Pakistan. To pay tribute to him, the mosque was named as King Faisal Mosque and the highway leading to it as Faisal Avenue after the king was assassinated.

Right: Vedat Dalokay's Watercolor sketch
Left: Vedat Dalokay with his bride and relatives on the day of marriage in 1957.

Architectural Competition
In order to construct a Grand National Mosque on a scale and excellence befitting the city of Islamabad, an International competition was organized by the Central Development Authority (CDA) and the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) under the auspices of the Union of International Architects (UIA), Paris. Architects from 17 different countries, submitted 43 proposals out of which 9 were from Turkey. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Syria, Libya, Morocco, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan participated in the competition. UIA appointed a five-member jury headed by the CDA chairman Lt. Gen. K. M. Sheikh, Mr. Mazhar-ul-Islam, a renowned architect from Dacca, Dr. Aptullah Kuran, a prominent architectural historian from Turkey, Samir Abu Bakar Ba Ghaffar, Director of Engineering and Planning, Municipality, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Mr. Pierra El-Khoury, Technical Advisor in the Lebanese Government in Town Planning. The Jury met in Islamabad on November 17, 1969 and after 4 days of deliberations selected five designs: 3 from Turkey, 1 from Iraq and Afghanistan each.

Out of the selected designs, Vedat Dalokay design was adjudged to be the best by a 4 to 1 majority and awarded prize money of Pak. Rupees 90,000 (equivalent to $24,000). The jury members appreciated the simplicity of the general layout. Dr. Aptullah Kuran declared that it was pride for Turkey that all three prizes were awarded to Turkish architects. The second and third Prize winners, Bulent Ozer and Nihat D. Bindal, were also Turkish and awarded PRs. 60,000 and PRs. 30,000 respectively while the fourth and fifth prize winners were awarded 15, 000 each. The jury members expressed their admiration for the overall quality and competence of the designers and recommended some revisions in the winning design. The jury decision to select 'non-conventional' design was criticized by the conservatives for having no arches and domes as well as for rejecting the rich mosque heritage of Pakistan. In Turkey, his design was considered to be a variation of the winning entry for the Kocatepe Mosque, competition in Ankara, in 1957, where he had proposed a concrete shell in dome form. Despite these apprehensions, when the mosque was completed and opened for public, it silenced most of the critics with its awe-inspiring scale, form and silhouette.
The construction work began in 1976 and was completed in 1986 costing over 130 million Saudi Riyals ($50 million). The mosque was inaugurated in 1988, three years behind schedule due to the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and unstable political conditions prevailing within the country.

Longitudinal Section from the South

Design Concept
The King Faisal Mosque was intended to symbolize the religious dedication and the aspirations of the newly formed Islamic nation, Pakistan. Dalokay conceived it as a crown for the modern capital, Islamabad as well as a symbol of religious dedication and independence of Pakistan. To him, the mosque was a powerful masterpiece of contemporary architecture and the most valuable heritage from this generation to the coming ones. His report comprising nine points submitted to the Competition Committee describes his design considerations. To develop his concept he searched for Quranic guidelines, and looked to the Modern as well as Medieval Islamic design principles. Ahmet Can Ersan, who worked closely with him for many years stated that one day when he entered into the office he found Dalokay completely absorbed in reading Quran. After one hour of complete silence, he came to me and said desperately "Look! Allah in Quran does not say anything in connection with mosque design".

The task of building a state mosque symbolizing independence in an urban setting of Islamabad largely shaped by modern city planning was a great challenge for Dalokay. In Pakistan, where Islam is the state religion, Dalokay looked for contemporary appropriateness by reinterpreting "modernity" and "tradition". He looked at classical models of Ottoman and Mughal mosques, made comparative analysis of the mosque and church architecture. According to him, the mosques had become symbol of power for governments, since people could perform their worship anywhere and everywhere as Allah is omnipresent. He stated that mosques are well lit, colorful, spacious and without directional emphasis whereas, churches are dark, depressing and with directional emphasis towards the altar. Muslims have no compulsion to be in the mosque and can pray in the open space. For Christians, God is in the most sacred part of the church i.e. the altar therefore their prayer is church bound facing towards the altar.

Based on his exhaustive study, he focused on the surroundings (context), modernity, monumentality and a valuable heritage from this generation to the coming ones. Unlike historical mosques in Pakistan, the complex is not enclosed within a boundary wall and the land around is left open. He made use of the traditional structure of an Arabian tent instead of a dome to make it resemble and be seen as an extension of the Margalla Hills. Dalokay installed the pyramid in a cube (most perfect and stable form) defined by four minarets. The form is an abstraction derived from a 61 meters (200 ft.) square base formed by the intersection of two planes. In fact, he evolved the geometrical concept from the most sacred and the oldest Islamic building, Ka'aba, and transformed into a purely 'modern' feat of advanced structure. Four towering Ottoman minarets, soaring 90 meter (300 ft.) high into the sky frame the Prayer hall. His emphasis on minarets is influenced by his Turkish origin where the Muslim conquest of Istanbul was marked by the erection of slender and pointed minarets when Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque. The hall is crowned by a giant gilded copper crescent at the apex in the direction of Mecca. The architect used the crescent as it symbolizes power, belief and the spirit of martyrdom in the Muslim world. His hand drawn sketches clearly demonstrate his conceptual process.

Kocatepe Mosque a joint project of Vedat Dalokay and Nejat Tekelioglu

"The life in the mosque is continuous with the outside world, so is its interior; in visual continuity with the exterior world…the pool entering from the Qibla side…the water an eternal sign of life, existence of water, sound of water, feeling the water. So when you face the Mihrab wall you see it, you observe its movement on the wall and on the vaults. You may as well take it as the blessing of the God. The air current, so vital in hot countries is well thought of in Islamic and Mughal architectural traditions. The main theme in the design of Shah Faisal Mosque is the joy of living. Perhaps it is the outcome of my acquaintance with the great Mughal and Ottoman Khilafat mosques. In them the interior space seems to me as the expression of glorious and joyful hymns. I expressed this joy through the means of space, light, water, air, color…I wanted without prejudice and pretension, an eternal form, clear as well as an illuminated space…in fact as clear as the statements of Quran".

Late Prof. Kausar Bashir Ahmad with his students of architecture from Dawood College during a study tour visited the under construction mosque in Dec. 1980 and was lucky enough to find Dalokay on the site. Dalokay explained his design concept as under:

"I tried to capture the spirit, proportion and geometry of Ka'aba in a purely abstract manner. Imagine the apex of each of the four minarets as a scaled explosion of four highest corners of Ka'aba thus an unseen Ka'aba form is bounded by the minarets at the four corners in a proportion of height to base akin to Ka'aba. Now, if you join the apex of each minaret to the base of the minaret diagonally opposite to it correspondingly, a four-sided pyramid shall be bound by these lines at the base side within that invisible cube. That lower level pyramid is treated as a solid body while four minarets with their apex complete the imaginary cube of Ka'aba ".

Dalokay was an architect who had the ability to use materials with great skill, achieved through the use of modern technology as a way of communing with God. His design is explicitly Modernist and suggestive of an Islamic architecture re-interpreted in its elemental forms. He made a unified whole of the orderly arrangement of successive open and covered spaces to walkways, courtyards, porticoes, borders and pavements all taking the form of rectilinear frames that affirm the possibility of a rational analysis of space based on abstract geometry. He made a unique blend of classical Ottoman and Mughal styles, reinterpreted into modernity to make it fit with the local context. The glamorous prayer hall, soaring minarets crowned with golden crests, illuminating chandeliers, reflecting pools, and sparkling surfaces were intended not only for aesthetics but to capture spirituality. However, importation of the Ottoman minarets to Pakistan led to a popular urban myth that the ever-paranoid CIA demanded to inspect them fearing they are missiles in disguise.

Inspired by the great Sinan, Dalokay followed his philosophy of the poetic assessment of space; "Man is happy if he can find a semblance of paradise on earth". He used sparkling, scintillating surfaces, reflecting pools, playful fountains and floor patterns in an effort to capture spirituality. It is not only the impressive size and exterior for which the mosque is famed, it also supports an equally elegant interior. Dalokay considered the interior of traditional mosques somber and tiring so he conceptualized a lively interior to create love for Allah and love for life. The Qibla wall inside the Prayer Hall is enlivened by reflected light generated from different points and angles. A large reflecting pool outside and parallel to the wall extends in to the hall hence, enhances its transcendental quality. The fountain inside the hall allows for air conditioning by adjusting the water level of the pool. The wall is covered with decorative glazed tiles from Turkey, restrained to calligraphy of verses interpreting blessings (rehmat) and bounties (barkat) by a Turkish graphic designer, Mengü Ertel. The Mihrab, unlike traditional niche/recess in the wall is a free standing sculptural element, symbolic of a vertically placed open Qur'an, with the spine bearing the word Allah repeated in a mirror image and the pages displaying verses from the Qur'an.

His overwhelming emphasis on form is neither a fashion nor a style but pursuit of a transcendental sense of pleasure. Dalokay's contribution is meaningful and has an overwhelming appeal and invokes long lasting impressions. It also provided a new impetus to the contemporary local architects as reviewed by a renowned architect, Naeem Pasha:

Faisal Mosque changed the way the clergy or the congregation thinks of a mosque, as a replica of Badshahi Mosque and essence of Masjid e Nabvi. Architects felt freer to explore other architectural elements than domes and arches to express symbolism of religion for a given house of worship. What Vedat Dalokay did is similar in some ways to Victor Lundi's laminated wood structured architecture, which somehow liberated architects in the west to walk away from Neo Classical or Gothic Expression of a church. After the Faisal Mosque, there is a marked difference in the mosque design and the dome, especially triple dome, has vanished. Dalokay's contribution is meaningful for it has changed the thoughts and minds of imams, worshippers as well as architects … local architects were becoming complacent and more subservient to the client and the induction of foreign architects was providing a new lease on life for survival of architecture.

Right: Vedat Dalokay addressing the Chamber of Architects, Ankara
Left: Prof. Dr. Neelum Naz with Dalokay's eldest daughter, Belemir Guzer during an interview at her residence, Ankara, Turkey

Since antiquity, cross cultural interactions have been customary among different countries mainly through diplomatic relations, migrations, invasions etc. Such interaction between Tukey and Pakistan brought new spirit to the Pakistani architecture. Indeed, Dalokay's design was among the first ones to depart from the conventional arch-and-dome type in the country. He sought a modernist expression based on impeccable application of a symbolic system. The mosque became the most prestigious project of his professional career; brought fame and fortune to him. He always referred to it as his child and he wished for a handful of earth from his grave to be taken to Islamabad and placed beside the mosque. The wish was fulfilled ten years after his tragic death, by his daughter Sibel Bozer, during a special visit to Pakistan. Dalokay considered the success of his modern mosque design as a sign of Pakistan being a country of pioneering status ahead of Turkey. He firmly believed that both the financial assistance of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia and the enthusiasm of the people of Pakistan were central to the success of the project. In fact, he was deeply indebted to the people of Pakistan and stated that without their beautiful faith, unfailing assistance and friendly cooperation a work of such magnitude could never have been accomplished. Shah Faisal Mosque, due to its strategic location, monumentality and grandiose scale dominates the landscape of Islamabad. The mosque became an icon and landmark of Pakistan as well as a milestone in the contemporary architecture of the Mulim World. His work will stand as an emblem of brotherhood among three leading Muslim states, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan for the future generations to come.

Dr. Neelam Naz is a Professor in the Department of Architecture, University of Engineering & Technology, Lahore.
She is a frequent contributor to ARCHITECTURE + INTERIORS (A+i).