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Cappadocia KEPEZ / Turkey


Cappadocia KEPEZ

Architectural Project & Design:
Project Team:
Nesime Onel, Tansel Dalgalı, Burak Paksoy, Volkan Buluc Kutal, Seda Tugutlu, Beste Dabakoglu, Emre Bilol, Aysu Acar, Umut Sert
Building Type:
Residential, Hospitality, Recent, Experimental
Planning Stage


Cappadocia in central Turkey is an important historical center dating back to ancient times. The geography and geology of the landscape has been instrumental in the types of settlements found there. The soft stone weathered over thousands of years has created an iconic shape that has been identified with Cappadocia and the civilizations that took shape in the center of Turkey for thousands of years.  

Most importantly we can point to the early Christian period during Roman times when Cappadocia was a place of escape and sanctuary from religious persecution.  Stone dwellings inside and underneath the ground became areas of refuge as networks of vast underground cities with notably, spaces for religious rituals in the form of the many stone churches and chapels found throughout the region around 3000 according to archaeological examination of early Christian civilization. This combination of religion and dwelling generated a system of architecture, voids and masses, open and closed spaced in and under the ground; a highly original morphology of architecture and geology that is unique and with great importance as heritage but also for its use as a zone of cultural heritage and tourism in our times. 

The natural history of Cappadocia with its original physical character reaches back thirty million years when eruptions from nearby volcanoes spewed ash and covered the whole region creating a geology of rocks primarily basalt. Transformed into tufa through thousands of years of erosion, the soft weathered tufa took on the iconic form of the numerous pointy” fairy chimneys” that have survived to our days and become the visual identity of the region. GAD in their design has taken this geology, chimneys and cave dwellings as a point of departure for the architecture of this hotel and leisure project, CAPPA. In this way, the design focuses on conceptualizing the context as a hybrid of landscape and building with functional and habitational strategies geared to the engagement with nature.  

The site lies in the newly launched archeological excavation zone of Kepez. The design strategy is derived from the archeological heritage and investigations there using it as a point of departure and engagement with the ancient and the archaic spatial knowledge located there. The notion of a microclimate, places for human habitation that optimize climate and functional needs, became a wider urban strategy of GAD's design. Here applied to the contemporary programmatic needs of this hotel, leisure and extended stay residential function of the building but also critically, to the needs of new visitors as a new experience of nature. 

We are in a period of human civilization where new experiences are needed for an increasingly expansive global culture. Specifically, it is in this sense that the design of CAPPA offers intriguing experiences of comfort and human engagement of nature with environmental and ecological impact. This project for example in its application of water to create thermal spas that are in fact natural spas but also are a sustainable solution where underground water is a source of geothermal energy. For GAD's design, water is an important natural resource that needs to be seen as a symbol within the architecture. For that reason, water is also a visible feature in the form of a large 6000m natural pool with symbolic and spatial impact. In these pools, a healthy microclimate is created in the combination of the dry air of the high plateau of Cappadocia with the natural geothermal ground water where visitors can bathe. More so GAD's design makes this pool feature an external public space unique to the area in its large scale but a valuable contribution to an experience of health and wellbeing that is at the center of the design idea.    

The idea of microclimates created through engagement of the landscape is also responsible for the creation of a number of valleys carved into the earth that are the site of guest rooms and residential zones of the project. Buried into the earth which acts to regulate thermal gain in the rooms of the hotel and the residential zones at optimal comfort levels. Thus, these underground rooms cool in summer, warm and winter, this new 21st century underground condition adapts ancient methods to new purposes. Of these residential rooms a number of them have been designed for extended stays in Kepez as houses for long seasonal rentals. These 15 homes with different layouts and floor plans set individually in the new landscape of stone formations and natural vegetation promise visitors a long term engagement with Cappadocia that is a benchmark for the project and a future direction for habitation and tourism in the future.  

Furthermore, these morphological design strategies that generated these new residences are also a visible feature in the plan of the complex. Stone masses are pulled out and up creating voids underground for rooms but also interesting formations on the surface. GADs design creates promenades and walking paths through this hybrid landscape as a new form of experience combining the old and the new structures, the manmade and the natural. This "landscraping" architectural strategy opens up the physical possibilities of the site as well as established a sensitive ecological rationale. 

Conceptually a new form of morphological material architecture, this design is also natural, ecological and critically allows for physical contact with the human body for health and wellness. The rooms themselves of a more established architectural style are also a hybrid of geology and classical architecture. GAD employs an original fusion of classic arches and vaults fused with the geological rock formations as this combination of man and nature. This hybrid condition, man and nature, working together as a new proposition for tourism but also for a larger understanding of lifestyle adapted to nature where for example farming of grapes for wine are part of the agricultural strategies of the design.  

Visitors to the hotel and site will have a unique experience based on this architectural and ecological design. We can see that new expansive forms are used to generate larger public spaces for new functions in this stone architecture to encourage new experience of the landscape. But this is done for more than aesthetic reasons. Microclimates designed out of the stone have environmental reasoning but also are intriguing new forms for the experience of this unique place. In this way GADs design has sensitivity to ecology and heritage but with an innovative idea of what the future can hold for Cappadocia as a new form of human civilization.