Topkapı Palace was not only the residence of the Ottoman sultans, but also the administrative and educational center of the state. Initially constructed between 1460 and 1478 by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, and expanded upon and altered many times throughout its long history, the palace served as the home of the Ottoman sultans and their court until the middle of the 19th century. In the early 1850s, the palace became inadequate to the requirements of state ceremonies and protocol, and so the sultans moved to Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the Bosphorus. But despite this move, the royal treasure, the Holy Relics of the Prophet Muhammad, and the imperial archives continued to be preserved at Topkapı, and since the palace was the ancestral residence of the Ottoman dynasty as well as the place where the Holy Relics were preserved Topkapı continued to play host to certain state ceremonies. Following the abolishment of the Ottoman monarchy in 1922, Topkapı Palace was converted into a museum on 3 April 1924, on the order of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
After the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II had a palace built in what is modern-day Istanbuls Beyazıt district, on the spot where the University of Istanbul stands today; this first palace subsequently became known as the Old Palace (Eski Saray). Following the construction of the Old Palace, Mehmed II then had the Tiled Kiosk (Çinili Kösk) built, followed by Topkapı Palace itself, to which the court relocated when construction was complete. Mehmed called this place the New Palace (Sarây-ı Cedîd). The palace received its current name when Sultan Mahmud I had a large wooden palace constructed near the citys Byzantine walls, in front of which were placed several ceremonial cannons; this seaside palace was named the Cannon Gate Palace by the Sea (Topkapusu Sâhil Sarâyı), and, when this palace was destroyed in a fire, its name was transferred to Mehmed IIs New Palace.
Topkapı Palace, which developed and grew over the centuries, had a design that itself played an important role in Ottoman governmental philosophy and in the relations between the palace and its subjects. When Topkapı was first built, its plan was influenced by the splendor of the Edirne Palace located on the Tunca River, which had been constructed by Mehmed IIs father, Sultan Murad II but very little of which survives today. The basic design of the palace is centered on various courtyards and gardens, around which are arranged offices devoted to state business, the buildings and pavilions serving as the residence of the sovereign, and the buildings set aside for the court employees who lived in the palace.
The grandiloquence that is characteristic of classical Ottoman mosque architecture is absent to a surprising degree in the palaces and residences of the same period and nowhere is this more evident than at Topkapı Palace where clusters of buildings were placed in a park-like setting and new additions were made over the centuries as circumstances required. As a result, one can find examples of Ottoman architecture reflecting changing tastes and styles from the late 15th century to the 'early 19th at Topkapı Palace. During its most brilliant period, Topkapı Palace was inhabited by upwards of 50 thousand people -servants, soldiers, and government officials- in addition to the sultan and his family.