Istanbul / Turkey
Architectural Project & Design:
Gokhan Avcioglu & GAD
Project Site Area:
2001 The Esma Sultan Venue was shortlisted for consideration, Aga Khan Award for Architecture
Esma Sultan is a multi-purpose event and
exhibition space located directly on the Bosphorus Strait in the Ortakoy
district of Istanbul. Built inside the ruins of a 19th century Bosphorus
Ottoman mansion or yali destroyed by a fire, GAD’s architecture for this
project relies on the concept of transparency to highlight the historic brick
shell while providing a contemporary interior space for events. The design concept was based on a glass box
set behind the remaining walls of the façade thus keeping the history of the
building intact while adapting it to the needs of the modern city of Istanbul.
The "building within a building” construction
strategy called for this box made of glass walls and stainless steel with
reinforced concrete columns to act as a vibrant relic, a functioning trace of
bygone times of aged brick walls. A technical constructive aesthetic was the
basis of this initial concept that was realized with little changes in the
completed building. Outwardly the exposed brick walls face the Bosphorus, a
palimpsest on a shoreline once lined with these yalıs. The design addresses the issue of continuity
with Istanbul’s historic urban fabric especially on the Bosphorus that has a
highly restrictive building code that limits new construction to the reconstruction
of buildings existing up until the mid-20th century. The design solution was to
layer a technological modernity behind the existing volume as an "act of
architectural historic restoration”.
GAD’s idea of architectural language has
always promoted flexible design strategies to optimize contemporary programs.
Here the multi-level building with a bar and a restaurant on the ground floor
and a conference/event space on the second floor entered by a wooden and steel
curved staircase maximizes space and circulation required for this facility.
Yet all these new programs are realized transparently within the historic
This technical architectural solution is an
exposed structure of slender steel columns and glass walls topped off by a
space frame that contains the lighting, mechanical and electrical systems. The
structure of the "new building” is then connected to the concrete reinforced
brick walls of the historic building by a system of steel brackets and rods.
There is also a practical constructive reason for this as the glass box that is
connected to the brick walls with suspension rods, ensures two separate
structures remain equidistant from each other mitigating the effects of extreme
weather and earthquakes. Furthermore this interior structure is only visible
inside the building. The architecture of steel, glass and on the ground floor
reinforced concrete columns with exposed fair-faced concrete. From the exterior
this interior volume is not visible. In this way the historic urban setting of
the Bosphorus remains intact with only the ruins of the building visible from
the exterior waterway. Esma Sultan is a multi-purpose event and exhibition space in Ortakoy, Istanbul, in the center of the city. The brick palace was built approximately 200 years ago for Esma Sultan, an Ottoman Sultan’s wife as a summer palace. Destroyed by fire over a century ago, the exterior brick walls are all that remained of the building. GAD designed a thin but strong stainless steel structure glass box suspended within the brick shell to create a covered venue that constantly reminds us the history with multiple transparent layer of glass. The brick walls inadvertently create a shelter for the transparent glass box from the sun, rain and wind. The multi-leveled project incorporates a bar and a restaurant on the ground floor and a conference/event space on the second floor entered by a wooden and steel curved staircase. The glass box is connected to the brick walls with suspension rods, ensures two separate structures remain equidistant from each other to be strong for extreme weather conditions and earthquakes. The exciting point of the project is from the outside, the building gives the illusion that the palace remains in its original state. From the inside, guests are surrounded by building’s former incarnation with views of the Bosphorus from the original arched brick window frames.