The Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) is located at the eastern end of Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul. Not only is it one of Turkey’s most important cultural buildings, but also a prime example of modernist architecture in the country. Built in 1966 and renewed in 1977, it has stood abandoned for years now. The building’s multi-faceted history serves as a catalyst to understanding modern Turkey, with political and technological develop-ments reflected in AKM’s destiny.
The exhibition addresses the architecture and ongoing story of this cultural edifice in a kind of collage. This is composed of models and especially the many artifacts from the archives of Murat Tabanlioglu. Plans, photo-graphs, letters, and mockups illustrate how history, function, and architecture are all intertwined. The plans for the AKM’s “re-composition” by Tabanlioglu Architects are also presented.
These shed light not only on the impact of the cultural center on the urban fabric, but also the challenges of designing a contemporary opera house that must operate like a complex machine. A key aspect is the preser-vation of the AKM’s architectural structure with its iconic façade. This issue touches on the wider debate on contemporary cultural preservation. While buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries are preserved and main-tained in many places, modern buildings from the second half of the 20th century are often demolished – as has occurred in Germany with much of its postwar modernist architecture. In this regard, the AKM can be seen as an important case study.
Tabanlioglu Architects is headed by Murat Tabanlioglu and Melkan Gursel. The practice has a long family tradition: its founder, Dr. Hayati Tabanlioglu, served as the architect of the original Atatürk Cultural Center. Based in Istanbul with offices in Dubai, Doha, London, and New York, the practice has realized projects of all sizes around the world. Among these are the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Levent Loft & Loft Gardens in Istanbul, Astana Train Station, the International Conference Center in Dakar, Milas Bodrum International Airport, and the residences at 118 East 59th Street in New York City.