Islamic Architecture and Orientalizing Style in Habsburg Bosnia

Islamic Architecture and Orientalizing Style in Habsburg Bosnia, 1878-1918

The project highlights an understudied experiment at the intersection of nineteenth-century European and Islamic architectural histories. It draws attention to a significant body of buildings designed by architects trained in Central Europe for use by Muslims in Habsburg-ruled Bosnia-Herzegovina (1878-1918). These buildings, many of which mosques, largely draw upon a traditional Islamic formal and functional typology. The composition and decoration of their façades, however, is the product of nineteenth-century Historicist conduct. Quoted are elements from assorted Islamic artistic heritages, with prominence given to Cairo and Andalusia. In Bosnia, many of these buildings were misinterpreted as mere renovations of Ottoman edifices, as is indeed declared on several inscriptions. However, this information generally appears to pertain to the institutions accommodated in these buildings rather than to their present form and architecture.

The project’s primary intention is to validate the assertion that these buildings must be considered a distinct group of architectural monuments, and that they, in consequence, constitute a phenomenon that necessitates separate appraisal and study. Intertwined with this architectural phenomenon is the stylistic phenomenon traditionally (yet inaccurately) called ‘pseudo-Moorish’ in Bosnia. This Orientalizing style was the preferred choice for buildings constructed for use by Muslims; it will be the project’s second focus of inquiry. The proposed study seeks to explore its historical sources and the channels of their reception, as well as the logic and aesthetic of these sources’ paraphrasing in a nineteenth-century context. By documenting and analysing this heritage in the necessary detail, the project will fill a significant gap in published scholarly research. It will also contribute to our understanding of European powers’ historical responses to the challenge of cultural diversity in territories under their control.