Istanbul: Between Contour and Silhouette

Summary: The studio explores how an architectural project could relate to the city through the manipulation of the ground line and the skyline. The practical aim is to propose a series of autonomous but related architectural interventions around the Suleymaniye complex in Istanbul in order to connect it physically and programmatically to the surrounding quarters of the old peninsula, while partaking in the definition of the city\’s skyline. The focus will be on manipulating the contour lines and skyline, but also on extroverting the courtyard building type.

The Suleymaniye Complex: The Suleymaniye Complex (or kulliye) was designed and built from 1551 to 1557 by the famous court architect Sinan. In addition to the mosque, the Complex consisted of a religious school or madrassa, a library, a hospice, a hospital, and a bath-house or hammam. Even though these programs were added incrementally around the mosque, they compose a very well calibrated frame around the mosque giving the Complex a remarkable internal coherence. These different buildings also carefully mediate between the mosque\’s skyline and the panorama of the city and between the constructed ground of the Complex and the topography of the hill. Recognized by the UNESCO as a world heritage site in the mid-80s, the Suleymaniye has undergone several changes in function but has maintained its powerful hold on the city\’s skyline.

Context: Historically, the district surrounding the Suleymaniye housed the \”white collar\” employees of both the kulliye and adjacent government institutions. Since the 19th century, the state institutions and the court have moved to the northern part of the city, leaving the old city and the area around the Suleymaniye to slowly deteriorate. By the mid 1980s, at the time when it was classified as a World Heritage site, this area had become a notoriously crime-ridden neighborhood with small scale manufacturing outfits. A revitalized urban economy and a succession of active mayors have actively turned the city around but in some cases at the expense of such historic areas as the Suleymaniye. Some of the urban interventions around it have also led to cutting it off from the rest of the city. In 2006, the national government passed a law to protect and renew some culturally significant sites including Suleymaniye. While the complex is being restored, the surrounding neighborhoods are also undergoing transformation, much of it highly contested by the working class neighborhoods and by the historic commission. One of the aims of the studio is to help re-enliven the surrounding neighborhoods by connecting them better with the complex itself as a source of urban vitality and formal clarity.

Studio Project: As a way of linking the complex to its surrounding neighborhoods and of helping them benefit from its recent rehabilitation, the studio proposes to insert a technical school and visitors services in the gaps that exist between the historical frame of the complex and the surrounding city. In the first two weeks of the semester, the students will develop an in-depth analysis of the complex and its relationship to the surrounding city based on the themes of the studio. Each student will then develop his/her own design project for the identified sites. The aim is to generate a coherent urban design strategy out of a series of discreet architectural interventions.

Organization: The studio is sponsored by the Aga Khan Program at the GSD. The studio is the fifth in a series of studios on Istanbul taught in parallel with studios at Bilgi University by Professor Han Tumertekin. The studio will also benefit from the participation of Erkin Ozay, research fellow in the Aga Khan Program at the GSD.