Istanbul possesses a splendid collection of palaces and pavilions left behind by the Ottoman sultans. All were nationalised in 1924 by Atatürk through the Grand National Assembly of the Turkish Republic. The buildings date from the late Ottoman era and were erected between the early-18th and late-19th centuries. Among them are six that have been opened to the public since 1983: the palaces of Dolmabahçe, Beylerbeyi and Yildiz, and the pavilions of Aynalikavak, Ihlamur and Maslak. Designed by architects trained in Europe, the buildings were filled with European furniture and art, as well as European textiles of local manufacture.
In 1983 a regional directorate of the National Palaces Trust (NPT) was created to maintain, repair and open the palaces and pavilions to the public, and restore the gardens and grounds to their original layouts in accordance with plans stored in 19th-century archives. The NPT consists of architects, engineers and researchers engaged in the documentation of the contents of the buildings, and the related study of the Turkish art and architecture of the two centuries during which they were constructed. In addition, the agency includes a technical unit of carpenters, builders, restorers and gardeners. Although the restoration techniques applied to the six buildings are not of uniformly high quality, this failure loses significance when measured against the immense cultural importance signified by the act of transforming into public spaces for gathering, entertainment and education once derelict and abandoned palaces, pavilions and gardens from Istanbul's historic past. The jury observed that "in the increasingly congested cities of the Islamic world, this is a powerful model for the efficient re-use of otherwise undervalued spaces and resources."
Recipient of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1992.