The ALAN Project began with the idea to raise appreciation towards works of architecture and architectural art, support architecture and landscaping through artwork, and to create artistic solutions that not only raise the quality and value of spaces, but also unify them. Comprised of consultants, academy graduates, and designers, all with a background in art, the ALAN Project team keeps abreast of art both here in Turkey as well as globally, and provides consultancy services for architectural projects when it comes to selecting and obtaining pieces of art that seamlessly fits the style, character, and context of the project. We caught up with ALAN Project’s founder, architect Efe Korkut Kurt, to talk both about the impact that art can have on a space, and about the marble goddess statues featured at the Colony Hotel in Northern Cyprus, for which her team consulted.
Can your line of work be defined as the intersection point between art and architecture? Who are your potential clients?
Efe Korkut Kurt: The ALAN Project was founded in order to materialize art that compliments architectural projects as well as seamlessly enhances spaces. That said, we work with architects and clients who wish to include the power of art in to the design process, and who share our vision. At times we may collaborate with both architects and then designers [on the same project].
How ought one go about putting forth quality works of art when designing public spaces?
EKK: First and foremost, you have distinguish between what, in the project, is a “priority” versus “necessary.” With public spaces in particular, you have to consider a multitude of factors, namely functionality, aesthetic, and-just as importantly-symbolic impact. If you use the power of art correctly, not only can make a profound societal statement, but it can also have a positive psychological influence on the occupying the space in question. Nowadays, large scale, fast-turning projects are unfortunately not “grounded.” This in turn creates a very serious memory problem, of sorts. Thus, the practical contribution that art, when utilized correctly, makes to architecture is, needless to say, considerable. We see many examples of this throughout the world. From this angle, being present right from the initial stages of the project, preliminary work, and creating positive dialogue and synergy between us and the project’s other actors all contribute to the grander scheme of things as valuable elements. In the coming years, we will see those elements multiply.
What do you pay attention to as you plan an art project?
EKK: In planning an art project, we first assess the different factors of the architectural space alongside the positive emotional impact that the material creates, or might create on that space, as well as on the spectator and/or user. The material plays a fundamental role in actualizing a space, for every material comes with its own, unique set of possibilities and constraints. Certain materials are known to respond differently to different physical and even emotional contexts, like warmth, lighting, and acoustics. In all of our projects, we give priority both to understanding the location as well as making sense of the relationships present.
We know that art has a positive impact on human psychology. In fact, it is even possible for us to observe the impact that natural materials have both on human health and the psyche. Could you tell us about how you use natural materials in your projects in order to strengthen that positive impact?
EKK: To a large degree, yes. When you gaze at an object, you tend not to perceive it as just a visual. The emotion that comes along with its tactility also strikes you as well. In essence, the sensitiveeffect that the material carries is much greater than we assume it is. What is important here is bringing together just the right form, style, and colour through that sensorial impact, and then to properly lace that into the fabric of the space. You should read Juhani Pallasmaa’s “The Eyes of Skin” as a point of reference.
Do you experiment with different materials in your projects in order to produce different results?
EKK: Yes, and quite frequently at that. New technology has especially given us more options, and thus more room to experiment. While we decide upon our materials right at the very beginning, sometimes a different material might lead us down an entirely different path all together, and yield completely unexpected results. Of course, it is important to also establish a balanced relationship between price and performance throughout each project. For example, the choice to sculpt the material by hand or to fold metal is not without its own set of labour costs.
Moving on to your Colony Hotel project in Cyprus… Here what are the client’s expectations? How did the process leading to the goddess statues unfold?
EKK: Our project for the Colony Hotel in Cyprus evolved like this: First, the customer had requested that we produce a number of pieces of art to be placed in front of their soon-to-be renovated façade. The hotel contains certain niche zones, as it were, that are above surpass two metres in height. Neo-classic wrought iron detailing supported these sections. Beyond that, parts of the hotel’s interior, too, were going to be renovated. They had asked us to support that through artwork. In response, we proposed three separate alternatives: the first was abstract, the second was semi-figurative, and the third was, or were, figurative statues. For the figurative statues, we selected 4 different goddesses-the first of whom being Aphrodite, who stems from Cypriot mythology. We had selected the remaining goddesses based on what they symbolized. Then, we produced models of one. When they reached a certain point of maturity, we then had them built at our sculpture in Izmir. Once complete, they were shipped to Cyprus.
We’re aware that you had sculpted the goddesses from marble. What impact did this have on the process?
EKK: Given that our client had wanted the figuration to be highly detailed, we opted to employ a casting method, which meant that we modeled each sculpture from clay. As soon as we obtained each model, we then poured over a solution that was mixed with a natural marble composite, thus allowing us to maintain the look and feel of natural marble, all the while avoiding the challenges that we would have faced if we’d chosen traditional chiselling-which, in order to create a sound result on a project of this scale and degree of detail, we would have had to have waken Michelangelo from the dead and brought him here! Joking aside: really, in order to obtain the result we were after, we chose to move forward using modern methodology. That way we were able to yield far more details while allowing the marble to show through.
What advantages does using a natural material pose from the moment it’s first conceived to point that accompanies throughout its lifecycle?
EKK: First, a high quality natural material is durable, which in turn is a major advantage. Materials are permanent and that süit the impact of an exterior can last for generations. Moreover, the weathering quality of a natural material can sometimes add to piece’s artistic value. Time can have a pleasant effect on shaping the piece, when in its natural setting. Whatever the project, using a material that we feel is right makes this process all the more pleasant an experience for us.