Tabanlıoğlu Architects revives Atatürk Cultural Center as a "world-class" Arts and Culture venue
Turkish architecture practice Tabanlioglu Architects (TA_) has unveiled new plans for a long-waited and disused Istanbul's historic Ataturk Cultural Center at the heart of Taksim Square in Istanbul.
The Ataturk Cultural Center, one of Istanbul's most controversial projects, will be destroyed after 10 years and will be rebuilt as a new Arts and Culture Center, which is expected to act as a "world-class" culture hub in Istanbul.
The project has officially been presented to the public by Tabanlioglu Architects with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by emphasizing that the new contemporary Ataturk Cultural Center will will appeal to larger crowds with its new program. The new building will mainly serve as an opera house, but it will consist new functions ranging from cinema and theater to exhibition halls, cafes and restaurants.
"The new Opera House will also act as the new center of arts and culture of the twenty-first century’s Istanbul, the central location between the East and the West, home to numerous cultures and classical civilisations," said Tabanlioglu Architects.
The project was originally built in 1946, as an "Opera House", and later in 1960’s it operated as a Cultural Center, designed by Dr. Hayati Tabanlıoğlu - one of the most well-known architects in contemporary Turkish architecture and founder of Tabanlioglu Architects - the project took 23 years before opening in 1969.
After a devastating fire in 1970 - the fire exploded during the Arthur Miller's "Witches' Cauldron" play and received harsh criticism from the architectural community and public - it took another 7 years until the second opening of Ataturk Cultural Center, which was –again- designed by Hayati Tabanlıoğlu.
A relic of the 1970s, the project of the new Ataturk Cultural Center will now be rebuilt, for the third time, by Tabanlioglu Architects, and the project will be led by Murat Tabanlioglu, son of the first architect of the center.
The new Ataturk Cultural Center will accommodate many performances in international standards, which will be arranged according to cutting-edge high technologies and requirements. Presenting itself as a transparent glass-volume and designed as a comprehensive urban structure, the center is also expected to be a major attraction for the city's locals and thousands of tourists visiting from around the world.
"It is very gratifying to have taken over such a heritage, beyond that, of course, we need this cultural building to be permanent for Turkey and the world. I was very excited to be invited by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism months ago to work on this project," said Murat Tabanlioglu, during the presentation of of the project.
He shared his feelings and added: "Since the needs and functions of a cultural establishment and the building have changed over time, they have to be renewed in spatial terms with current solutions. It is inevitable to incorporate technical requirements and possibilities into such a structure, especially at the point of performing a very special and complex function like opera."
"Eventually, architecture, technology, infrastructure and systems needed fresh blood for the performance of opera and ballet, and the recent condition of the center did not meet the need, moreover like people, in terms of structure the buildings get old and weaken."
"So, of course with the principle of staying true to the collective memory of the city, we kept the dimensions and its significant façade of the 60's, and conveyed the building into the 21st century," he added.
The building is designed according to the highest sustainability criterias, and evaluated in the scope of technological and architectural aspects, and restructuring the surroundings as well the building. The new Ataturk Cultural Center - also known as the AKM - aims to reach a status as one of the world's best opera houses and cultural centers, providing the highest quality for rich performances that require complex technologies.
The arts and culture units are elegantly articulated to the main building, which will house the capacity of 2500-seat, with a large-sized hall with natural acoustics. Hence, the new AKM will be transformed from a single unit into a large, comprehensive cultural complex.
The studio adds alternative and secondary functions to the building including smaller concert halls, theater halls, cinemas, libraries, design shops, and cafes and restaurants between them, which will be located at various levels along the culture street that is passed through the annex. The low-rise serial buildings are connected to each other, and ultimately to the main building, through their lobbies. These capacities are also independently accessible from the street level.
Through the cascading extension with a green landscaped roof, a second entry, so a secondary piazza, is granted that will be formed in the direction of the congress valley where Atatürk Library and Technical University are located.
"Being public buildings, one of the most notable elements of opera houses are squares. AKM defines the edge of the Taksim Square, and the new project enhances the relationship with its unifying and connective accomplishment through art and cultural activities," said Tabanlioglu Architects.
"More transparent than the old one, AKM's façade will be reconstructed, enlivened by one of the biggest screens of the world, so that the performances realized on the stage inside will simultaneously broadcast on the screen for the public, through the high quality display," added the firm.
The gigantic textured red outer shell fills the volume of the main opera hall, which is clearly percepted through the transparency of the main façade - this semi-spherical bold red shell will emphasize the powerful image of the presence of the Opera House.
The architects place a high-class restaurant on the roof of the main structure, providing panoramic views of the Bosphorus. "Other than opening the spectacle to public, it is envisaged that this meeting place will provide an advantage for financial support for the operation of the cultural center," added the firm.
The new hall, accommodating a 2500-seat events, will be wrapped a wooden-like material and create a dramatic atmosphere, while shining with various multiple events though its large-sized stage.
"Architecturally, with its multi-layers and alternative functionalities, the AKM is also defined as a basis for sociocultural consensus; a valuable metropolitan tool that lives every hour of the day, with contemporary aesthetics and a high representation value, and at the same time, an inclusive and embracing urban magnet," explained TA_.
"One of the most important modernist buildings of Istanbul, AKM will survive preserving its significant values through the creativity and richness of the original architecture while updating the requirements of its functions, as well as meeting the qualities of urban life of the new century," stated the firm.
The Ataturk Cultural Center has not been used for 10 years, and the ways whether the structure will be transformed or destroyed have been discussed for years by governmental officials, the architecture community and civil organisations. Especially, in a general press release by the Chamber of Architects of Turkey, the organisation opposed new plans and stated that "It is a crime to destroy or cause the destruction of the AKM." The organisation emphasised that "the building should be restored appropriately."
The new Ataturk Cultural Center will also serve as a case study on the architectural structures of the 1960's, a base for academic discussions in setting the principles of their protection, as many of the countries in the world today survive much older buildings, while the 60's buildings are being demolished. The project is expected to be completed in 2019.