Heval Zeliha Yüksel Mimar / Architect
We talked with the master architect Han Tümertekin about the contributions of Salt Beyoğlu and Salt Galata concerning the city and the concept project he developed for the Koç Contemporary Art Museum Invitational Competiton. He intimately explained how he handles a subject within the context of these projects, his experiences and the function of the architect considering the connectionworked up between the work of art and the city.
What are the essentials of an exhibition space for you? How the architectural design of a museum or an exhibition space should be implemented?
I will start by mentioning an obsession of mine. I am obsessed with connecting each structure to where it exactly belongs. The decisive primary questions are: “Where are we?”, “How are we getting there?”, “How are we leaving there?”… This is the typical intervention i embrace while listening the project presentations of my students. They always come inside a building but no one explains how they get out of that place so i often warn them: “Ok we are in. Now let’s get out of this building.” The basis of this intervention is the same; it is important how we use that specific space. Starting from this, i am not the kind of a person who precisely states the nature of an exhibition space or the necessities it embodies. For me, each exhibition space should be associated directly with its location.
We can say that there is a tension between the architect and the art. Is it the structure or the work that needs to shine out
Again, i am going to respond gradually through the case of specifity. For a while now, i have been naming some of my international lectures “hyperspecifity”. Being specific is not enough, we should be acting in advanced levels of specifity. This is not something i use solely in architecture or for the creation of spaces, i always speak clearly by interfering in when the tendency of speaking generally appears in a daily conservation throughout my daily life. I am the one who gives the “Let’s talk about this subject” warning. Starting from this; i realize that there is a tension between the architecture, the art or the artist, the architect and the curator. I experienced this before and hopefully i will experience it once again and manage to cope with it. If i have to get back to a different pattern of behaviour, i am usually busy with unveiling the necessities a certain condition requires, rather than the expressed demands of other people. Therefore i won’t be paying attention to the way of communication regarding a curator or an artist, a museum consultant or anyone else. At the basis of this tension that we mutually accept, lies the clash of egos in a big way.
This interpretation of ‘clashing egos’ is a first for me…
Because especially for those in the art world, the most common characteristic feature is that they have highly advanced egos. Even though egos stand out as the fundamental reason for making some of the artists or architects unique, it’s a quite difficult attribute in terms of supervision. It’s important for the parties to suppress their egos during an encounter of this type or at least for one of them to have the ability to control and override their ego in order to relieve the tension. In fact, this should be perceived as a methodology of design beyond being a character trait. One of the par ties should be able to ask: “What does this place need?” Once again, even though the place is being designed for displaying or embodying ar t, revealing the fact that there will be other aspects is a practical approach, in order to come close to a solution. Of course the ar tist or the curator, whomever facing the architect, the person or people being in the position of a client naturally improve their concentrations entirely over their own needs. Never theless, we know that no space can exist independently from its own context in any part of the world. The world is a whole, it is a fragmented whole but the world is one and therefore space is one for me as well. So whether we face the problem of generating art in a structure, let’s say for projects only or design a structure solely for art, this aspect of the work is of course impor tant in terms of creating that building. Yet there is also the environment and one should consider it throughout the process.
How did you approach this matter while designing SALT Galata and SALT Beyoğlu? Have you designed a structure of art before them?
There was Taksim Art Gallery but it got demolished eventually. Let’s start by SALT first in order to advance chronologically. SALT structures stand out as the art spaces which were subjected to the largest user testing among others for having dealt with international reactions.
SALT structures made a tremendous impression and they have been published numbers of times, i don’t know the exact number but they had many visitors…
Yes, i get interesting reactions during my meetings in different parts of the world such as “You were the architect of that place?” or “I have been in İstanbul for two days and spent half of my day there” from people coming to me during an international conference. The curator Vasıf Kortun was there from all along. He guided us quite a lot. Therefore when the structure was finished, it wasn’t in a state to be evaluated. We had a curator since the Garanti Bank announced; “We will transform two downtown structures from the 19th century into cultural spaces as a gift for the city”. Of course it was something that facilitated my job but also made it difficult in terms of the aforementioned management of egos regarding different parties.
Did you have difficulties during that period?
No. I wouldn’t refer them as difficulties because these are the data of the project. Just as i can not change the fact that a particular building stands there, the fact that the Banks Street is located on the hill is only a data for me. This is my approach. This is how i approach the agents and the topography related to the project process. For being a skilled curator who is renowned and accepted in the global scale, it was essential to listen to what he was saying and introduce them in the project as valuable data. This connection was standing for an important data and a serious input for the successful result. It was necessary to install these data in those spaces through initially uncovering the spatial values of the structures. The primary action was to ensure this and sort out the extensions. It was mandatory to adjust the spatial presence of the building in a way that does not suppress the artistic activities taking place inside,on the contrary, make them more visible and render them more qualified. These were the main problems of the space. We completely concentrated on this matter in both of the SALT structures. It is important to emphasize on the fact that we had the idea to involve six or seven different architects and designers into the project. It was stated that some parts needed to change periodically. Such as the library, toilets, the common reception desk, auditorium, etc. Some spaces have been seperated in different groups. We managed to handle a potentially different situation for architects and turned it into a value.
Which natural stone has been used in SALT Galata, was it the Marmara?
Yes, the floors of the former structures have also been covered with the Marmara marble.
Well, you have developed a concept design for Koç Contemporary Art Museum. Could you tell us about this process?
It was a limited competition and four teams from all over the world have been invited. Among the participators,we were the only team taking part from Turkey. Once again, we initially started the project through the basis of connections involved independently from their functions. Of course, we knew what was going to happen. Although the basic data we introduced it in the Pervititch map- was pointing out to the fact that the land which was unoccupied on a large scale in the past was located at the exact point where it was connected with a dense structure texture. Therefore our priority issue was managing this scale arrangement. These large parcels of the unoccupied land which once was embodying certain factories was later led to specific structuring as a result of the removal of the factories. The scales of these structures are quite different than the ones located in their vicinities and the Koç Contemporary Art Museum is located at the intersection of these two points. We initially approved designing a museum consisting of numberous structures instead of a single one. In order to manage the scale transition, we created a street that is formed by a block of big spaces with a multifunctional black box and a smaller block.
What is a black box?
This is an expression of the client. It’s an empty box equipped for organizing various activities inside. It does not require daylight because artificial lighting ensures it in order to satisfy diversified usage. While the galleries and the “black box” are located in the expo structure that forms one facade of the street; management, café, museum store and periodic exhibition spaces are located in the opposite low-rise structure. We intercepted the urban texture that moves along as a series of big structures with a final block added into it. At the opposite side of the street, we handled the scale difference along with a convenient structure that coincides with the low-rise and dense settlement of the immediate vicinity. This solution provides access to the museum before getting inside the building. Whoever walks down the street, gets through the museum.
So just as you said at the beginning, both the entrance and the exit was contemplated, regulated, organized and connected with the city…
The connection with the city is well-studied and we highly endeavored to establish it. It doesn’t get right through in the chosen project but it has been solved with two separate blocks. The others solved it with a single block. The second issue was removing the large voidless facades appeared at the reflection of the self-enclosedness into the facade. This self-enclosed structure is a major problem in similar buildings and often derives from the neccesity of the wall surfaces inside the exhibition spaces. We moved all the foot traffic inside the exhibition block into the facade. It’s still related with the city but only as an area of connection. This is the method we adopted years ago for the long gone Taksim Art Gallery. Here, we had also transferred the circulation into the facade. There were two galleries, two exhibition spaces in all and a ramp was situated in between them. We envisioned a movement allowing one to go in and out between the city and the interiors,while one was walking around the galleries and switching places between floors. Instead of forming an urban perception based on a voidless facade and the graphic artistry aimed at the people passing by, we envisioned a design where actual people are moving and therefore creating the facade.
I guess its connection with the city was really important.
The main element was the connection with the city and we were in a rapidly changing area of the city.Therefore this project was going to change the urban texture drastically.
Yet the project of a foreign team was chosen for İstanbul…
I don’t really know if it’s accurate to analyze this matter in terms of the foreign/local comparison. It can be an advantage as well, from the
point of remaining distant. Therefore rather than being local or foreign, i sympathize with evaluating the intellectual source of the project with its response to the requirements of the place. I didn’t have the chance to see the other project in detail so i can’t comment on that. Above all, it doesn’t seem right for me to comment on the design of my opponent in a competition which i lost in. By the way, i can say that we are generally a bit hesitant about the presentations regarding the competitions. As an office, we can only introduce what we are sure of. We don’t have the reflex, the skill or the morality to exxagerate a little, to introduce parts that we are unsure about.When someone says “We liked this building a lot, let’s build it”, I always get devastated if the design is carried out through changing the original, due to a single line of the project is impossible to be realized.
Can we say that the art and art centers have a transformative effect on their areas? How did you experience this in the SALT project?
These interventions absolutely have transformative effects. SALT Beyoğlu and SALT Galata have created transformative effects both in that specific area of the city and the cultural life of the city. Organizing these structures as public spaces led to this success. Even though the architect doesn’t have a say in the artistic and cultural investment planned for a specific area, he has the ability to make these functions easily accessible. So we performed these interventions within the scope of reconstructing the large-scale entrances at SALT. We designed spaces where people find themselves inside while walking down the street and spreaded this fluid circulation into our buildings. Therefore a space setup that easily reaches the aforementioned functions has emerged. This of course increased the utilization of structures and the programs they offer as an agent that boosts the comfort of the users and visitors without letting them notice. Therefore they caused a transformation through providing service for a considerable amount of people.
Thank you for all the information.
The Generation of the Public
Architecture is entrusted with the task of creating public space for all members of society. As a practice, it is responsible for the design
of space for not only individual building programs assigned by clients but also as a humanist profession takes into account the larger interests of society in general. This is because the transformation achieved by architecture is one that is essentially social. The weaving together of the urban network is especially important when the building’s program is oriented towards public use. Increasing the importance of the buildings as generators of public space in cities buildings for culture in modern cities today are often the center of expansive building programs intended specifically to generate space for public life. It is with this strategy in mind that our design for the Koç Contemporary is very much an opportunity to address the specific requirements for an art gallery while extending the scope of the appreciation of art to its urban context as public space. Our plan is composed of two main volumes set off against each other as an extension of the amorphous geometry of the neighboring buildings. Like much of Istanbul, this area of Dolapdere is a collection of low-rise buildings oriented by the hilly urban topography. Our principal objective is to smoothly integrate the mass of the buildings into this setting while carving out additional space for publicuse. This area like much of central Istanbul is quickly changing and our role is to be an active catalyst in this transformation with the addition of public space for the future city. Yet we are aware that it is not only a matter of space but of integration into an existing urban situation determined by tight social relations amongst residents. Istanbul’s unique neighborhood level urbanism in its domestic architecture has a long if vague history. We seek to participate in this street level social fabric by enabling circulation through the project that allows local inhabitants to see and interact with the artistic program of Koç Contemporary while passing through the space.
The extension of the narrow pedestrian bridge that runs over Dolapdere’s boulevard through the project to the park space adjacent
to the residential area on the other side augments the gap between the main gallery space and administrative building making it an important node in the urban network. This path actively seeks to establish dialogue with the social fabric of the area. That is because
we intend Koç Contemporary to be a good neighbor in our setting. Our plan calls for the cross over of the space and the local urban network and believes in the transformative strength of this integration. We create activities for local residents in a café and shop in the space between the gallery building and the smaller administrative volume supported by public art in these outdoor zones. Our design further endeavors to draw the local setting into a more direct relation with the formal art gallery spaces by making visible the interior circulation of the building seen through the transparent façade of the gallery building.The connections made by the project’s integration of the art program with the local setting through this promenade outside, inside and through the complex is an attempt to create a flexible public space intended for long term use. Our strategy for making a place from this spatial condition is in fact open to change with the possibility for new places being created in and around these spaces, as the neighboring context will inevitably change. Our discrete architectural language is a key element in this longterm strategy. Space and light important in the exhibition of visual art are valued as central elements in the architecture. The 12 metergaps between the columns opens up the façade to create these spaces while allowing for spacious uninterrupted gallery rooms. But the architectural language here is not forceful. Like the public spaces generated by the plan, the basic and clear architecture in glass seeks to be a good neighbor in its setting knowing that in the long term this is the most important factor to success.
Following the survey studies that defined the existing condition of the structure that was repaired many times and embodied extensions
and arrangements implemented in different periods, the restoration and restitution projects are constituted through the most accurate records available. As for the refunctioning projects, they are realized in accordance with the user requirements. One of the key criteria was strengthening the connection between the main and additional buildings and enabling them to function together. Therefore a glass surface was designed on the circulation area that connects the main and additional buildings and extends through passing both structures all the way from the entrance. This glass surface goes along the promenade in order to exhibit the archaeology of the structure and announce the activities taking place in the “SALT Galata” structure. Also the pool installed at the atrium as a recreation area between these two structures was designed to increase the awareness between the new and the pre-existing at this level.Attained by the bottom-up well foundations, the two basement floors of the additional building embodied joint technical volumes of the two structures. The Ottoman Museum which was situated at the first sub-basement was redesigned. Located at this level and aimed at standing off from the original building through its design philosophy, the exhibition space of the additional building was formed with an approach that doesn’t preclude the structural features.
Also extending over the mezzanine, the library, the information desk, lockers, toilets, the store and the cafeteria are positioned in the ground level. Accessible through the cafeteria space that was implemented through an open kitchen design, the restaurant section
is constructed with steel construction for emphasizing on the new attribute which is observable throughout the entire structure.
Along with an approach that defined the decorative elements by the facilities of the structure, it was aimed for the users to focus both on the taste and the offerings of Alexandre Vallaury up north and the city of İstanbul at the south of the structure. Meeting rooms and seminar spaces are located in the first floor and the office spaces are located in the second and the third floors. An exhibition and a displayable archive space are designed at the north section of the third floor and the fourth floor is segregated for multi-functional spaces. Another phase of the key design decisions was to ensure the reconstruction of the original design that was aiming at the daylight
to reach down the ground floor. Therefore while designing the rooflight, mobile and fixed mirrors that deliver the full travel of the sunlight all the way down to the ground floor were installed, by examining the sunlight effect on the roof through benefiting from today’s technology.