Nazimî Yaver Yenal: Ahead of the architectural drawing board

Nazimî Yaver Yenal: Ahead of the architectural drawing board

Minji Lee
January 15, 2018

Despite being considered one of the most talented architectural figures from the early years of the Turkish Republic, the majority of Nazimî Yaver Yenal’s designs remained on paper, never constructed into reality. His life philosophy, however, lays a strong foundation for today with talent, skill, and ambition.


Turkish architect Nazimî Yaver Yenal, who lived from 1904 to 1987 and through the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of the Turkish Republic, embraced major societal changes in his work. Through his architectural drawings he revealed an early mastery of combined architectural styles and caught the eye of Italian-Ottoman architect Giulio Mongeri, his personal instructor, who saw Yenal’s potential in these penciled masterpieces. 

Throughout his studies at the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, known today as Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, and into the later years of his career, Yenal entered a number of architectural competitions during the formative years of the Republic Era. In 1925 he submitted a plan to renovate the Haydarpaşa Train Station and later, in 1942, Yenal came up with a design for the construction of Atatürk’s mausoleum. Despite his blueprints being architecturally sound and aesthetically appealing, they never came to fruition, but because of his determination he continued to enter into competitions.

His determination was also shown through his work abroad in politically challenging times.  Between 1927 and 1932, Yenal traveled to Paris and Berlin on educational scholarships. He won prizes in architectural competitions and worked under the most important figures in architecture, such as German architect Hans Poelzig. Most importantly, he gained new perspectives on architectural design and form, most notably modernism. Instead of maintaining a rigid stance toward architecture, he adapted his style to contribute to the changing discourse.

Forging reality from imagination

Though he mastered architectural styles such as classicism and modernism and had a wealth of elaborate drawings to prove it, his designs took a backseat to his work as a civil servant. Upon his return to Istanbul in 1932, Yenal secured a job as an instructor at the School of Fine Arts, specializing in the teaching of interior architecture. Through his drawings, which he sketched in private, Yenal created for himself an alternative realm in which the outside world was no barrier for his idealized masterpieces.

Viewers can visit The Istanbul Research Institute’s Imaginary World of a Paper Architect and see Yenal’s artistic architectural drawings through March 2018. Though they remain two-dimensional in form, these blueprints can serve as inspiration for future architects, engineers, and artists.