Meydan: Designing the Surfaces of Public Space around Beyazit Square, Istanbul


The studio explores the architectural means by which a public space could be configured to support a variety of specific urban functions while encouraging a multiplicity of unspecified social interactions. By relocating a library and a bus station, the studio aims to reorganize the activities in Beyazit Square, one of the oldest, vital, but more chaotic public spaces in the historic center of Istanbul. The studio focuses on the design of the square’s façades, the ground surface and the covers over some of its passages. In the interplay between ground frottage, reflected ceiling, and façade relief, the studio hopes to unpack the possibilities of over-determination of surfaces and under-determination of spaces. This contrast between intense edges and open spaces is meant to inspire rather than dictate public activity.


In the past twenty years, Istanbul has been on a very fast pace of expanding its transportation network and infrastructure to serve its growing metropolitan territory. Because of geography and the growth patterns, this network has converged back on the historical center generating major transportation nodes and development projects around them. It has also generated major frictions with the historic city and its citizens.

For one, and with varying degrees of success, the increasing awareness of the historical fabric of the city and its world heritage status, has led to serious negotiations and reconsideration of several infrastructure projects in order to mitigate their detrimental impacts. At another level, the growing civic skepticism of the political and social consequences of such projects has pushed them to the forefront of public debates. The recent demonstrations around Gezi Park are a case in point.

Site and Program: Campus, Bazaar, Mosque, Bus Station, Archaeology, and Tram Stop

The site is Beyazit Square, a transportation hub located at the critical juncture between Istanbul University and the Grand Bazaar around the Beyazit II Mosque. In the history of Istanbul, Beyazit Square has moved from a highly formalized space associated with decorum of empire to a more loosely delineated void between highly differentiated activities. Through this transformation, the square has been the subject of periodic rehabilitation attempts, all partially or poorly executed. Today, the synergetic interaction between a wide range of uses, cultures, and architectural typologies (ranging from mat buildings to free-standing objects) is one of the key generators of the square’s livelihood despite its practical problems and uninspiring surfaces.

The Istanbul Studios at the GSD:

Over the past six years, the Aga Khan Program at the GSD, in collaboration with Bilgi University in Istanbul, has been addressing these themes through a series of studios on the historic city with projects ranging from a new train station, a new bridge, to new urban equipment that serve the tourists and local citizens alike. All located in the thick of the historic peninsula, these studios have placed a strong emphasis on the civic potential of the new infrastructures, and focused on strategies of embedding such structures within the historic context in order derive urban and architectural lessons. This studio is the last installation in this sequence.

The studio is sponsored by the Aga Khan Program at the GSD.

It is open to students in architecture and urban design.