Alexander Vallaury

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Décugis House, Beyoğlu

Alexander Vallaury (1850-1921) was a French-Ottoman architect, who founded architectural education and lectured in the School of Fine Arts in Constantinople (Istanbul), Ottoman Empire.


Vallaury was born in 1850 into a Levantine family in Istanbul. His father, Francesco Vallaury, was a renowned pastry chef, highly respected in the court circles. Vallaury's nationality is not definitively known; however, it is assumed that he is of French extraction due to his affinity to French culture.

Alexander Vallaury spent his time between 1869 and 1878 in Paris, France, where he studied architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Returning to Istanbul in 1880, he met Osman Hamdi Bey, who was at that time curator of the newly established "Empire Museum" (Turkish: Müze-i Humayun), which is today the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, during an exhibition of his relief drawings of various architectural monuments. The two artists worked closely in the fields of archaeology, museum work and education in fine arts.

Following the foundation of the first School of Fine Arts (Turkish: Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi) in Turkey on January 1, 1882, Alexander Vallaury was appointed with the establishment of the architecture department of the school, which is today Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts. He lectured for 25 years at the school until his retirement in 1908.

Postcard of the Public Debt Administration building

In 1896, he was awarded the French order Légion d'honneur together with many other medals and awards from the French and Ottoman governments. Following the 1894 Istanbul earthquake, he was appointed to work on various commissions for city planning. Remembered by Osman Bey as the "City Architect" (Mimar-ı Şehir), Vallaury became the architect invariably chosen by the upper echelons of Ottoman high officials and French business circles during the time he was an instructor at the School of Fine Arts. On some of the projects he fulfilled for these circles, he was joined by the Italian architect Raimondo Tommaso D'Aronco, the chief architect at the sultan's palace.

Vallaury combined traditional Ottoman architecture with elements of Beaux-Arts architecture in his designs of buildings made for members of the palace and for high officials in Istanbul. His architectural approach shows variety across a broad spectrum from Islamic-Ottoman synthesis to Neoclassical architecture. He used also motifs of international Orientalism for some Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Ottoman elements. Particularly in his buildings of Neo-Ottoman design, Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau details are apparent.

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