Foundation promotes İznik tiles worldwide
With a mission to promote the traditional art of handmade İznik tiles, which disappeared 400 years ago without a trace, the İznik Foundation has been making efforts to keep the art alive by producing these exceptional pieces of work in its workshop in İznik.
These tiles are produced with original recipes from 600 years ago with traditional production methods.
The art of producing İznik tiles is more than 1,000 years old, and these tiles adorn the walls of mosques, madrasas, tombs and palaces in the Anatolia region. This art reached its peak with works made in the 16th century in the İznik region.
Architect Mimar Sinan made use of İznik tiles marvelously in some parts of the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque and Topkapı Palace. Another important work of Sinan is the Selimiye Mosque embellished with İznik tiles.
Due to the emerging economic difficulties in the Ottoman Empire and the palace’s inability to finance the workshops during the 17th century, the production of İznik tiles slowed down and later disappeared without leaving any documents behind. Though different structures were tried to be established to continue the production of İznik tile, they were not successful.
Established under the leadership of Professor Işıl Akbaygil in order to research İznik tiles, compile and develop information on this subject and transfer it to new generations, The İznik Foundation conducted research and development studies in its first two years to reach original recipes.
Masters from Kütahya and professors from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK ), Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and Princeton University were included in the research team. The foundation, which was established in 1997 with the intense support of TÜBİTAK, reached the original centuries-old recipes and succeeded in producing quality İznik tiles with traditional methods and materials.
The first big project was the application of İznik tiles in Istanbul Metro. As the Istanbul Metro began to be known as the “Tiled Metro,” tile requests began to come from subway stations abroad.
Over time, these tiles also continued to be used in mosques and monuments as well as for interior and exterior decoration and restoration purposes.
Today, the İznik Foundation designs villas, monuments and metro stations worldwide from Canada, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Thailand, Japan to Chile.
Among the important projects were the restoration of Bayburt Castle, the Turkish Republic Mission Buildings in Strasbourg, the dressing of the windows of the Paris Hermès store, the Tokyo Metro station, the NATO building in Brussels and the tile panels prepared for the 500th Anniversary of Havana.
Speaking about the foundation, Akbaygil said: “In 1993, when I was the director of the Istanbul University Institute of Social Sciences, I learned about the excavations of İznik tile ovens. We held an international exhibition with the encouragement of late Professor Oktay Aslanapa, the head of the excavation. The exhibition catalog turned into a book of ‘İznik,’ which is still shown as the most comprehensive reference and source in this field in the world. Following the exhibition, I founded the İznik Education Foundation. Our primary goal was to produce the Ottoman-era tiles. We didn’t have any recipes, but then we reached the recipes and started production.”
The İznik Foundation produces environmentally friendly, ecological and sustainable material with superior aesthetic properties. It takes about 70 days on average to make these tiles. Raw materials are supplied from İznik and its surroundings.
No tile pattern is made by just one person, as its geometry is drawn and developed like a design project. Each product and pattern is prepared with great patience by skilled workers.
The İznik Foundation is the only organization ever invited from Turkey by the European Route of Ceramics, where important ceramic brands in Europe are members.
Classical tile motifs and modern designs are also applied to tiles in the foundation. For this reason, traditional production and texture started to be carried into today’s living spaces with new-generation products.
In architecture, tiles are mostly used for indoor and outdoor facades. The İznik tiles, an ecological, flexible and customizable building material, is a timeless material that increases the design value of architectural projects and spaces. They help rooms stay cool in summer and warm in winter.
The İznik Foundation has a mission to show the İznik tiles in the most accurate way around the world, says Akbaygil, adding, “We take the advantage of every opportunity to promote the İznik tiles. We host students in our workshop and organize workshops by making joint projects with universities and high schools from Turkey and abroad. We explain the design value that tiles add to structures to industry professionals in Turkey and abroad. We host designers in our workshops in İznik, create environments where they can work and support them in producing their designs. We will continue works after the pandemic process.”