Lost Art: Iznik Tile

Iznik Tile

Fragment of tile identical to those on mausoleum of Şehzade Mahmud in Bursa, 1506-1507. Photo from Wikipedia.

The history of the Ottoman Empire would be vastly different without the influence of art and architecture on the landscape. There’s no better proof than Iznik tile, which adorns many of the buildings from the period and is decorated with both traditional Ottoman arabesque patterns and Chinese elements. The tiles are composed of primarily ground quartz and are glazed with the same material to help create the bright glazes that distinguish them from any other kind of tile. Quartz is temperature-neutral and durable, meaning the tiles can last for 1,000 years. (Image from Wikipedia.)

In 1993, economics professor Dr. Işıl Akbaygil began research on these exceptional tiles and discovered that the art of making them had completely been lost.

Dr. Akbaygil dedicated herself to rediscovering the techniques, founding the Iznik Training and Education Foundation in the process. It took ten years for the Foundation, along with a host of government, preservation, research and university partners, to determine what made the tiles so unusual. Then it recreated the lengthy handmade production process, trained local artisans, and constructed a manufacturing facility. Now Izik tile is being used in restoration projects and in high-use public areas like the subway.

Cool Hunting produced this video, which features Istanbul-based architectural historian Gökhan Karakuş. He discusses the history and modern-day process that has resurrected this once-lost art form.

Cool Hunting Video: Iznik Tiles from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.