Challenging architects in Istanbul

Next week, October 7-8, Turkish and foreign architects will gather in Istanbul at Arkimeet to discuss the current issues of urban development in a local and global context. Prior to the event, BRIDGE talked to Ömer Yılmaz, managing partner of Arkitera Architecture Center, the organizer of Arkimeet, about the changes in Istanbul as seen from an international perspective.

 

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BRIDGE: What kind of foreign architectural companies are interested in Istanbul? Why is it an interesting place for international architectural projects?

Ömer Yılmaz: The international architecture environment has a great interest in Istanbul, and it will continue to be a centre of attention as long as big projects are being realized. The interested parties fall into two groups. The first group consists of those interested primarily for financial reasons. They create “mega” projects in Istanbul that create a financial benefit for the architectural institutions and become architectural references. The stars of the second group are architects. This group wants to have a piece of the pie in terms of work, but are less aggressive because they are big names.

 

B: Is Istanbul a challenging city for architects?

ÖY: I do not believe that Istanbul is more difficult for architects than other places in the world. But looking at the situation from my own position, I think architects are more responsible for their own work here.

 

B: Do any of the recent or upcoming architectural developments in Istanbul have the potential to become contemporary architectural symbols?

ÖY: There are development areas which might be a focus of interest, such as the third airport, the Istanbul International Financial Center and the planned developments on both sides of Istanbul, which the government calls “new cities,” are the first ones that come to mind. I do not expect any of them to become an architectural icon.

 

B: How will Istanbul overcome the issues associated with such rapid growth?

ÖY: Unfortunately, we learn about the effects of fast development by experience. We eventually learn whether the issues can be handled or not. I don’t believe we can handle them. Without a doubt, the issue which we overlook and should take precautions about is planning discipline. There are quality architectural products in Turkey, mostly as a result of developments in the last decade. The designs of both local and international architects have improved. However, from the building scale to the city scale, we see the problems created by rapid development. I see no harm in saying that these are like cities on steroids, but they are also typical cities. The same problematic cities can be found almost all over Turkey.

 

B: What are the most important factors to make a city more livable?

ÖY: I would say the single most important factor is the comfort of the pedestrians. We cannot even talk about pedestrian comfort in Istanbul, but we are happy to live here in spite of it. Other factors, such as the Bosporus, cosmopolitan structure, climate and cultural life, make up for some of the practical problems of the city.

 

B: Whose designs would you like to see in Istanbul? 

ÖY: It would be nice to see a building by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

 

Arkimeet ’13 takes place at Istanbul Haliç Congress Centre on October 7-8, 2013.

A program of the event can be found at: http://www.arkimeet.com/2013/en/34/event/calendar

For further details go to Arkimeet website.

Photo: Barbaros Kayan

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