Leman Tomsu, one of the first women architects of the Republic of Turkey (with Münevver Belen), graduated from Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul in 1934 with a degree in architecture. After obtaining her degree, she was appointed to the Provincial Directorate in Istanbul in February of 1935 and began to work with Martin Wagner, a German architect and city planner.
She traveled to Germany between 1937-1938. After returning to Turkey, she began to work in 1941 as the assistant to Professor Dr. Emin Halit Onat, the founding professor and the first dean of the Faculty of Architecture at Istanbul Technical University, at the High School of Engineering in Istanbul, which was incorporated into Istanbul Technical University in 1944. In February of 1942, she was appointed as an associate professor at Istanbul Technical University with her thesis entitled Bursa Evleri (Bursa Houses), and became a professor at the same university in May of 1960.
In addition to her teaching position, she conducted her research in several countries, including Switzerland, Germany, Swiss, France and Italy in 1950 (two months), and Germany and the United Kingdom in 1958. In 1965, she visited Paris and attended a conference of the International Union of Architects (UIA). As a visiting professor, she gave a lecture on the Bursa Houses. In 1966 she organized an exhibition on architectural works from Istanbul Technical University at the University of California at Berkeley, College of Environmental Design, Department of Architecture. At the same university, she attended seminars and project juries as well. In 1972, she made research trips to the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Swiss and Norway (three months). In 1978 she came to the United States to conduct her studies. In addition to the duties of her post at Istanbul Technical University, she worked on various architectural projects with Professor Dr. Emin Halit Onat between 1936 and 1959. In addition, she participated many architectural design competitions and won several awards.
As a pioneering woman in the early Republic period, Leman Tomsu worked on design commissions for public buildings rather than on housing projects. With rational programmatic solutions, the formal articulations of her works usually reflect the Second National Architectural Style characterized by a traditional and regional vocabulary under the influence of Emin Halit Onat and Sedad Hakkı Eldem. She retired from Istanbul Technical University in 1981, and passed away in Istanbul in 1988.
Her career opened up new opportunities for women in Turkey, and her work in the fields of teaching and practice greatly influenced the next generation of women architects.
Architectural Design Competition Projects:
Kadikoy People’s House Istanbul, Turkey, 1938, 3rd prize.
Eskisehir Hamidiye and Mahmudiye Village Institutes, Eskisehir, Turkey, 1941, 1st prize.
Trakya Kepirtepe Village Institute, Edirne, Turkey, 1942, 1st prize.
2. AYRICALIK YA DA AYRIMCILIK: MİMARLIK MESLEĞİNDE KADIN OLMAK (Priviledge
or Discrimination: To Be a Woman in the Architectural Profession) 10
3. TAVLUSUN: İMPARATORLUĞUN YAPI USTALARI (Tavlusun: The Builders of the Empire) 22
4. İSTANBUL’DA SAVAŞIN BİRLEŞTİRDİĞİ İKİ AİLE (Two Families in Istanbul United by War) 30
5. ERENKÖY KIZ LİSESİ’NDEN AKADEMİ’YE İKİ KADIN: LEMAN TOMSU VE MÜNEVVER BELEN (Two Women from Erenköy Kız Lisesi (Girls High School) to the Academy: Leman Tomsu and Münevver Belen) 38
6. MESLEKİ YAŞAMDA İLK ADIMLAR: 1934-1941 DÖNEMİNDE İSTANBUL BELEDİYESİ VE KONKURLAR (First Steps in Her Professional Life: Istanbul Municiplaity and Competitions Between 1934-194) 52
7. İTÜ ÇATISI ALTINDA ONAT VE TOMSU (Onat
and Tomsu Under the Roof of İstanbul Technical University [İTÜ]) 72
8. BİR EV, BİR ÖMÜR (one House, One Life) 96
9. YERDE BİR ÇUKUR OLSUN, KUŞLAR SU İÇSİN (Let There Be a Pit in the Ground, So the Can Drink Water) 108
KAYNAKLAR (Sources) 112
Chapter Summaries in English:
1. Leman Tomsu is the first woman architect in Turkey. So far overlooked in the male historical tradition. Apart from being an architect, she also plays an important role in the history of the modernization of the Turkish Republic. She was breaking in a male profession and domain, was role model for a Republican woman, did not marry, had economic independence, had the male role of the head of the family. This book is rather her biography than than a work on the history of architecture. Some regard her as an ambitious careerist, some as a hard working but low-key architect too much under the influence of Emin onat at İTÜ.
The authors (Neslihan Türkün Dostoğlu and Özlem Erdoğdu Erkarslan) dedicate their book to the first Turkish women architects Leman Tomsu and Münevver Belen, as well as to their mothers Nuriç Türkün and Mualla Erdoğdu.
2. Women can be called the first builders in history. In archaic societies they were responsible for building dwellings. But then until the 19th century women had basically no role in the shaping of the environment. Leman Tomsu and Münevver Belen are not mentioned in works on Turkish architecture until 2000. First women studying architecture in Europe (Finland, France etc.) in the 19th century. Germany, USA, ...
3. Tavlusun is a village between Kayseri and Sivas. The geography of the area has inspired builders of all ages (Hittite, Roman, Byzantine; Mimar Sinan who originates from another village in the area). Leman Tomsu comes from an important family. Her family originates from Tavlasun and always kept close ties to that place. When the family picked a last name in 1934 she – already a graduated young architect – suggested the name Tomsu to her father, which is the name of the village square of Tavlasun. Her grandfather was a famous calligrapher and miniaturist (khattat, naqqash) and mayor of Kayseri. Her father was a civil servant.
4. In 1901 Tomsu's father moves with his wife Zehra Hanım to Serez (today Greece) where he works as a graduate of the military academy. After mobilization in 1912 he becomes prisoner of war in Bulgaria. Zehra Hanım returns to Istanbul because of the war, their second child Leman is born there in 1913. Difficult times for the women, Zehra Hanım (Leman Tomus's mother) and her sister Ayşe Hanım live together in a house with their children, their husbands on the front. The two sisters have grown up with servants in Tavlasun, now they have to manage everything on their own. Leman starts primary school at age five, offered by Erenköy Kız Lisesi (Girls High School). ... Family situation, life with numerous siblings and cousins, careers of siblings ...
5. Leman Tomsu and Münevver Belen graduate together from Erenköy Kız Lisesi (Girls High School) in 1929 and both decide to study architecture in the Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi (today: Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi = Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University).
6. Tomsu's professional life between 1934 (when she graduate from university) until 1941 when she started working as an assistant at İstanbul Technical University. Worked on many projects together with Münevver Belen. She/they built Halkevleri ("community centres", that is a state sponsored enlightenment project) and Parti Evleri (centers/houses of political parties) et al.
8. Leman Tomsu saved money over a long period to be able to build her own home. She refused to use her family inheritance for that. She made some money with competitions she won. Starting the project in 1953 she built her own house in Kadıköy, Göztepe. Her home was "her child" to her. Her house no longer exists. Her nieces and nephews (many of them live in the US) were not able to maintain the house and had it demolished and built an apartment building in its place, named Leman Hanım Apartmanı.
9. Leman Tomsu who was fond of details also designed her own gravestone. She is buried in the Karacaahmet Graveyard. Her gravestone is a piece of art. At the front of the grave are the two hollows for birds to drink water.