At the eastern end of Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul, the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) is one of the city’s most important cultural buildings and a prime example of modernist architecture. Built in 1969 and renewed in 1977, it serves as a catalyst to understanding the history of modern Turkey, with political and technological developments reflected in AKM’s destiny.
The exhibition looks at the ongoing story of this building and how it relates to broader issues of contemporary design. The existing – now derelict – cultural center and the proposal by Tabanlioglu Architects for its “re-composition” is revealed through models and complemented by archival documents and information on the design process. These shed light not only on the impact of the cultural center on the urban fabric, but also the challenges of designing a contemporary opera house that must operate like a complex machine, requiring the smooth interaction of intricate systems using advanced technologies and materials.
Another key aspect of the exhibition is the preservation of the AKM’s architectural structure with its iconic façade dating back to the 1960s. Even as many countries today seek to preserve much older buildings, newer historic buildings are being demolished due to inadequate historic preservation policies – a highly topical issue in Germany with regard to its own postwar modernist architecture. By addressing the old and the new, the AKM project can be considered as a case study in both matters.
Headed by Murat Tabanlioglu and Melkan Gursel, Tabanlıoğlu Architects has realized buildings of various scale around the world. Starting with Dr. Hayati Tabanlioglu, the architect of the Atatürk Cultural Center, the practice has a long family tradition. Based in Istanbul and with offices in Dubai, Doha, London, and New York, it is known for projects such as the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Levent Loft & Loft Gardens in Istanbul, Astana Train Station, the International Conference Center in Dakar, Milas Bodrum International Airport, and the residences at 118 East 59th Street in New York City.