Is­tan­bul-based Ta­ban­li­oglu Ar­chi­tects’ re­cent win at the World Ar­chi­tec­ture Festival looks set to fi­nally put the firm – and Turkish ar­chi­tec­ture – on the map.

Robb Report (Malaysia) - - Ideal Homes & Art - By JOSH SIMS

“Be­ing an in­te­rior de­signer is a very im­por­tant mis­sion. We can change peo­ple’s lives. The first step is to un­der­stand the clients’ per­son­al­ity, wishes, back­ground. I need to know ev­ery­thing about them, to spend time with them. This is a very im­por­tant stage. Then I de­sign a be­spoke en­vi­ron­ment based on this anal­y­sis, made- to- mea­sure to them. In fact, I am a tai­lor, and as my clients are dif­fer­ent, my projects log­i­cally are dif­fer­ent. I de­sign not for my­self but for some­body else, and I never for­get it.”

When the World Ar­chi­tec­ture Festival awarded one of its more pres­ti­gious prizes last Novem­ber, it wasn’t for a mod­ern restora­tion of a clas­si­cal build­ing that was most un­usual. It was that the win­ning firm, Ta­ban­li­oglu Ar­chi­tects, is from Turkey. While Turkey has in re­cent years been recog­nised for its fash­ion man­u­fac­tur­ing and prod­uct de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture has lagged some­what be­hind. Un­til now.

“Turkey has moved into a new mod­ern pe­riod in ar­chi­tec­ture be­cause it’s go­ing through a wider

trans­for­ma­tion, Is­tan­bul es­pe­cially,” ar­gues Melkan Gursel, who co-heads Ta­ban­li­oglu Ar­chi­tects with Mu­rat Ta­ban­li­oglu. “Fifty years ago there was a strong op­po­si­tion to new build­ing in Turkey. Build­ings were built with­out ar­chi­tects. But the sit­u­a­tion has over the last few years be­come the op­po­site. Now our lo­ca­tion has be­come more im­por­tant - it’s that East-west bridge. We can act as an in­ter­face to trans­lat­ing Western tra­di­tions into Eastern tra­di­tions. And ar­chi­tects are start­ing to claim their names. We just hap­pen to be the first.”

The com­pany is a lead­ing player in Africa and cen­tral Asia - not least be­cause it has been ex­cluded from pitch­ing for work in the EU (and, given that Turkey seems un­likely to be­come a mem­ber for maybe a decade, will

re­main so). Among its projects set to come to fruition this year are Crys­tal Tow­ers in Dubai and Is­tan­bul’s first open-air shop­ping cen­tre, with a res­i­den­tial sec­tion.

Ta­ban­li­oglu Ar­chi­tects has won a rep­u­ta­tion for re­tain­ing the lo­cal char­ac­ter of the his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture in its new builds. “You have to re­spect what are of­ten unique cul­tures - so if you’re work­ing in Sene­gal, for ex­am­ple, you re­ally need to study Sene­gal as its own place,” Gursel notes. The same sen­si­tiv­ity was shown in the re­cent award-win­ning work: the restora­tion of Is­tan­bul’s Beyazit State Li­brary, which saw a light­ing scheme that was care­fully bal­anced in an his­toric space, as well as the use of mod­ern ma­te­ri­als that mar­ried well with the old ones. Con­struc­tion work even re­vealed the re­mains of a Byzan­tine church - what could have been a com­pli­ca­tion was turned into an at­trac­tion: these can now be viewed through a glass roof.

“Con­vinc­ing peo­ple that you can mod­ernise a build­ing re­spect­fully is the hard­est part of the job,” Gursel notes. “Peo­ple are con­vinced you’ll harm the build­ing’s orig­i­nal state. The changes took a lot of ne­go­ti­a­tion.”

In­deed, the World Ar­chi­tec­ture Festival prize is just the lat­est - no­tably Ta­ban­li­oglu Ar­chi­tects has also scooped awards from Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects, the Oscars of ar­chi­tec­ture, be­com­ing the first Turkish com­pany to do so. Work­ing on land­mark build­ings is in the blood too. Mu­rat launched the com­pany with his fa­ther, Hay­ati, in 1990, be­fore soon be­ing joined by Gursel, Mu­rat’s now exwife (“we have two kids to­gether

Ta­ban­li­oglu Ar­chi­tects has won a rep­u­ta­tion for re­tain­ing the lo­cal char­ac­ter of the his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture.

- one our daugh­ter and the other this com­pany,” she jokes of their un­usual ar­range­ment). But in re­cent years the com­pany has com­pleted a num­ber of build­ings of sim­i­lar so­cial im­por­tance: Is­tan­bul Mod­ern, Turkey’s first mod­ern art mu­seum; As­tana Arena in Kaza­khstan; and Do­gan Me­dia Cen­tre in Ankara among them.

Each project re­flects an­other char­ac­ter­is­tic for which the com­pany has also be­come known: its de­signs’ em­pha­sis on bring­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­gether. It’s about do­ing away with that of­ten rigid dis­tinc­tion be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate space.

The phi­los­o­phy has even been ap­plied to its own of­fice in the heart of Is­tan­bul’s de­sign dis­trict - a dis­trict its pres­ence helped form. Last year saw the six-storey build­ing re­fur­bished to in­clude an art gallery, res­tau­rant and street level area all open to the pub­lic.

“Well, we thought we can’t tell our clients they should do this and not do it our­selves,” Gursel notes. “Build­ings in the 20th cen­tury be­came in­creas­ingly in­su­lar - they kept us within our rooms. But we need to use ar­chi­tec­ture to get peo­ple to meet other peo­ple they wouldn’t oth­er­wise meet.” www.ta­ban­li­ ≠

Tris­tan Auer’s ex­per­tise lends it­self well to de­sign­ing ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces, such as this one for AD In­te­rior 2011 and Cartier’s 250sqm stand at Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires 2012 (fac­ing page).

The enormous girth (25m or more) and longevity (over 1,000 years) of Sene­gal’s Baobab trees were the in­spi­ra­tion for the In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence Cen­ter in Dakar. In­set: Mu­rat Ta­ban­li­oglu and Melkan Gursel.

From top: an in­te­rior view of Dakar’s congress cen­tre; Crys­tal Tow­ers in Dubai.

The 2008 ren­o­va­tion of Ataturk Cul­tural Cen­ter in­volved bring­ing the 30-year-old build­ing into the 21st cen­tury by up­dat­ing its in­te­rior and adding pub­lic spa­ces, such as gal­leries and cafes, to foster in­ter­ac­tion.

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