Travelling is my great passion and sometimes when you travel you get to know interesting stories. Stories that give insights on project management issues and how unusual situations where solved in other times by historical characters. I learnt the story that follows while travelling in Estambul, now one year ago.
The tour guides explain about the Blue Mosque, that when the Great Sultan Ahmed I gave instructions for the design of the Mosque, whose purpose was to calm down Ala after the wars with the Safavida Empire, that the minarets were gold made. The architect Sedefhar Mehmet Ağa, took the requirements and started to work on the project. It didn’t take long to reach the conclusion that the construction was impossible both financially and technically wise.
The architech, tough, was afraid to face the Sultan, under a lot of pressure by the religious authorities. He could not tell the Sultan that the design was impossible. An alternative had to be sought urgently to avoid any further delay in the construction. Sedefhar, pupil of the great architect Sinan, was a resourceful man and came out with an idea.
It happens that in Turkish the word for “gold” is “altin” while the word for “six” is “alti”. Only one character made the words different, therefore a feasible solution existed. The architect rewrote the requirements. The Mosque should have six minarets instead of (four) golden minarets, as it originally was requested.
The Sultan, somehow released, by having a solution he could offer, accepted the “misunderstanding” and the project continued not without problems as they new design was considered to be presumptuous because at that time the only other Mosque with six minarets was the the mosque of the Ka’aba in Mecca, additionally the area required to build the Mosque was larger than expected.
The former problem was solved by erecting a seventh minareth in Ka’aba Mosque. The latter had an expensive solution, some palaces, that had just been built, had to be adquired and pulled down.
In summary, sometimes when admiring our historical legacy we are not aware of the decisions taken and the price paid, sometimes economical, some other times in terms of human lives taken, to satisfy the ego of the powerful kings, sultans or politics. Nobody can blame the architect for the choice he made about explaining the limitations on the original design or having a creative requirement management tactic to avoid contradicting such a powerful but still pressured customer.