The Fossati Brothers, Swiss Architects from Morcote to Istanbul

Friday, 01.10.2021 – Saturday, 02.10.2021


The Fossati Brothers, Swiss Architects from Morcote to Istanbul
The Fossati Brothers, Swiss Architects from Morcote to Istanbul ©Swiss Consulate Istanbul

The Swiss Consulate General in Istanbul organized on the 1 and 2 October 2021 an international Conference on the Swiss architects Gaspare and Guiseppe Fossati. The two brothers lived and worked in the 19th century in Istanbul.

Born in Morcote, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland at the beginning of the 19th century, Gaspare Fossati arrived in 1833 in St Petersburg, where three years later he was appointed official architect to the imperial court. In 1837 he moved to Constantinople to build the new Russian embassy, which was completed in 1845. From 1839 he was joined in Constantinople by his brother Giuseppe (1822-1891) who had just finished his architectural studies in Milan. For over twenty years the Ottoman capital of the Tanzimat reform period became the privileged sphere of action of the Fossati brothers, who acquired international fame there. Between 1841 and 1843 Gaspare rebuilt the Church of the Dominican Convent of S. Pietro in Galata; in 1846 he was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmegid I to build the Ottoman University by carrying out an archaeological excavation on the area of the ancient Forum of Augustus (Darülfünum, completed in 1849 and destroyed by fire in 1933). In 1847 the Sultan commissioned the Fossati brothers to restore the S. Sofia mosque (formerly the basilica), during which they discovered and documented the original Byzantine mosaic decoration. At the height of his career, in 1858, he returned to Morcote with his brother. He built a house by the lake, now completely transformed, and a funerary chapel in Moorish style. He died in Morcote on 05.09.1883.

Organising a conference on the magnificent and sometimes unknown architectural heritage of the Fossati brothers in Istanbul represents a great common enterprise. This undertaking brings together the Embassy and the Consulate General of Switzerland, the Consulate general of the Russian Federation, the Dominican Study Institute Istanbul, the Università della Svizzera Italiana, the Universities of the Bosphorus and of Kadir Has, the Italian Cultural Institute Istanbul as well as all the academics and specialists involved. We are very glad that High Representatives of the Canton of Ticino including personalities from Morcote, the birthplace of the Fossati, will participate in the conference. Through Ticino, the links established between Switzerland, Russia and Turkey with this specific cooperation mirror in a modest way the fantastic exchanges of experiences, influences and talents which took place in the mid-19th century in Istanbul. When the Fossati carried out their works, the Ottoman Empire was embarking on a series of reforms which started in 1839 with the proclamation of the Tanzimat aiming at modernizing the country. It is not a coincidence that exactly at this time the Fossati found their place in Istanbul. Studying and exploring the past brings new possibilities for present cooperation. Our specific wish is that the conference becomes the starting block of further initiatives for Switzerland in the area notably of architecture for exchanging ideas and presenting to the public the rich common European heritage that we share and which is truly alive and thriving.

Location: Istanbul