Armenian architect building bridges between religions

Kevork Özkaragöz, an Armenian architect who has designed many religious monuments for different religions, refers to the opinions of the religious communities when developing his projects.

A member of an Armenian family renowned for their stonemasonry, Özkaragöz moved from Malatya to Istanbul with his family when he was 6 years old.

The structures built by Özkaragöz in recent years include Mahmut Şevket Paşa Hacı Bektaş Cemevi (an Alevi house of worship) in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı district, Plevne Mosque in Balıkesir’s Gönen district and the final prayer chapel in his hometown, Malatya, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Last year, the final prayer chapel – in a historical Armenian cemetery in Malatya – was demolished by municipal teams, which stirred a lot of debate in society. Due to the objections, the chapel was rebuilt on the grounds that the teams had “misunderstood the order.”

“While designing the Cemevi, I obtained the opinions of elderly persons in the Alevi community. I obtained data on Alevi culture and beliefs from studies published on the subject. And when designing the mosque, I tried to get to know the functions of a mosque by chatting with imams. I especially observed Istanbul’s mosques from the perspective of a designer. I refreshed my knowledge of mosques by examining mosques’ stages of development in art history books. I also examined Vedat Dalokay Islamabad Mosque and Behruz Çinici TCMM mosque, which were built in the Republican period,” he said.

“Existence, oneness and love of God form the basis of religions, while they center upon human beings. I believe each faith has a different form of worship and different needs. I can develop my designs by taking all these [differences] into account with the aid of my cultural background. I am very pleased when a religious structure comes into being and people can worship in them,” Özkaragöz said.

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