GSD Course Bulletin - Spring 2013

01603: On the Order of Objects: Mediating between Monuments, Museums, and Megaliths in the Historic Center of Istanbul (STU 0160300)

Architecture, Urban Planning and Design
Option Studio - 8 credits - Limited enrollment
Tuesday Thursday 2:00 - 6:00  

Course Tools for this course (Canvas)

A. Hashim Sarkis

Course Description


The studio is set in the area around the old Byzantine hippodrome in the historic center of Istanbul. Here an accumulation of buildings and groups of buildings over time provides strong evidence that architectural objects could produce effective urban orders between them.

The studio explores how objects, whether by accumulation or orchestration, have the ability to develop inter-relational qualities. It also seeks to extend this proposition from the discreet confines of the architectural project to the scale of urban ensembles. Instead of the monument/fabric conception of urban form by postmodernism that excepted monuments against the city fabric ordered by streets, and instead of the modernist object that highlighted the object’s radiant order against urban systems, the studio explores other possibilities of mediating between monuments, urban equipment, and ordinary buildings.


The site is a 140 x 250 meter block, located in the historic center of Istanbul, on the western side of the old Byzantine hippodrome. The hippodrome survives as a large plaza pierced by several columns and obelisks from the Byzantine era. It is now surrounded by Ottoman buildings that date from the 16th to the 19th century, most of which were built on the foundations of the hippodrome. On the opposite side of the hippodrome are three of Istanbul's most visited monuments, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace.

Three main building complexes stand on this site: the 16th century palace of Ibrahim Pasha, the grand vizier of Sultan Suleyman, now turned into a Turkish and Islamic Museum, the abandoned Adliye, the federal courthouse, built between 1948 and 1971 by modernist architect Sedad Hakki Eldem, and a small cadastral archive dating from 1908. Together with an adjacent archeological park, these buildings create an unusually rich ensemble of objects and spaces between them. These structures also stand, and stand out, between the historic monuments and the fragile fabric of the peninsula. Their potential mediation, both social and formal, is clearly illustrated in the increasing attention that the city is giving to these institutions in order to consolidate the tourism economy around the historic center while enfranchising the local population.


The studio builds on the study of the orders among the existing objects on the site:

1) the serial, as manifest in the Adliye, the federal courthouse complex. Here, the repetition but also slight variations among volumes suggests a subtle but effective hierarchy among objects and spaces between them.
2) the aggregated, as registered in the ruins of the Byzantine palaces in the archaeological park. Whether linear or radial, these aggregated collections of rooms and spaces suggest that the monumental and the ordinary could be produced out of the same order.
3) the staggered, as exemplified in the Ottoman structures on the site. Here, the different courtyard buildings are linked to each other through binary adjacencies and local symmetries producing a relay of spaces that negotiate the irregularities of the neighborhood's section through rectilinear slippages.
4) the megalithic as illustrated in the obelisks and the remains of the hippodrome walls. This configuration entails breaking the architectural project into a series of ambiguously scaled volumes and spaces, but here on site, and in their ruin status, these megaliths exhibit an open configuration that transcends the confines of the individual object and its monumentality and suggest a vital urban logic.

The studio explores the possibility of relating between these different orders and using one or a combination of them to design new facilities on the site. Here again, the studio relies on some precedents from the site, such as Eldem's unrealized expansion of the Adliye (1978), but also on contemporary examples of mediation among objects.


The charge of the studio is to improve accessibility to the hippodrome area and to provide service facilities for the surrounding tourist attractions and museums.

Architecturally, the program consists of about 10,000 sqm of public support services including a visitors reception and information area, educational spaces, museum shops, a gallery for temporary exhibitions, a cafeteria, and an auditorium. The new program is meant to serve the tourists visiting the hippodrome area in general, but more specifically the four adjacent museums: 1) the existing Turkish/Islamic Arts Museum, 2) a Byzantine museum to be housed in the Adliye, 3) a cadastral museum in the cadastral archives building, and 4) an existing small museum for Medicine currently under restoration.


- The studio is the sixth in a series of investigations on the interface between contemporary infrastructure and the historic fabric of Istanbul.
- It is open to students from architecture and urban design.
- It involves an in-depth exploration of architectural composition. Students need to be committed to spending the semester formal exploring the compositional and material relationships among architectural objects. For that, the students will also be working with large-scale models and 3D drawings. We will also explore new methods of representation to test and express this new configurational approach in urban architecture.
- A trip to Istanbul will take place between February 16 and 22 during which the students will be able to visit the site and meet with local officials and architects.
- The studio will be taught with Erkin Ozay, Lecturer and Visiting Fellow in the Aga Khan Program at the GSD.
- The studio is taught in parallel with a studio at Bilgi University in Istanbul by Han Tumertekin.
- The studio is sponsored by the Aga Khan Program at the GSD.