Kadikoy Public Park Facilities


Project name: Kadikoy Public Park Facilities

Location: Kadikoy / Istanbul / Turkey

Client: Kadıkoy Municipality

Architect: Gokhan Avcioglu & GAD

Start / Completion: 1996 / 1997

Building Type: Low Rise

Project Type: Public Facility

Project Site Area: 350 sqm

Construction Area: 176 sqm

Status: Built
Awards: 1998 & 2004 The Kadikoy Public Park Facilities project was short-listed for consideration, Aga Khan Award for Architecture
1997 Turkish Architecture Prize for the design of the Kadikoy Public Park Facilities project in Istanbul


Kadikoy, formerly known as Halkedon  (land of Copper) was a major settlement in the Archaic and the Antiquity periods. Its natural port has embraced many civilisations. The earliest settlement known ( dating back to around 4000BC to 3000BC) was at Fikirtepe north of actual Kadiköy. Phoenicians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, and later the Byzantines used Kadiköy as a major settlement for commercial and strategical status.

During the Byzantine Empire, Halkedon was unable to withstand the Byzantine capital, Byzantion (former Constantinopolis’s and later Istanbul) flourishment  on the other side of the Bosphorus. Consequnetly Halkedon’s status, both commercially and strategically was left to the hands of the Byzantine capital. After the conquest of Constantinopolis in 1453, the Ottoman Emperor Fatih Sultan Mehmet appointed his first Judge (Kadi in Ottoman) to Halkedon. Later the name of Halkedon was changed to Kadiköy (the village of the Judge). Through the Ottoman reign to the proclamation of the Republic, Kadiköy attained a major socio-cultural and political status, with its diverse cultures. Since the early 1900’s the site was a fish and flower market.

Kadikoy as it stands today is a bustling seaport. The main road arteries connecting the Asiatic and European sides fans out from the Kadikoy urban square. It also houses Haydarpasha central train station which connects Istanbul to Anatolia and the Middle east.nSites are primarily the generaters of builidng geometries. A place for purification was intended. Since 330 BC during the Hellenistic, Roman, Seljuck and finally Ottoman  period, public baths has always been generators of social activities within the city culture. Especially in the times when the city culture and the level of civilization reached their peak the Administrations and Architects realised projects of great importance for these functions. The formerly unhealthy restrooms at Kadiköy Park urban Square were above the surface and had cretaed visual as well as functional problems. After talks with the Municipality and the former owner of the deteriorating restrooms; the municipality aggreed to hand responsibility of the new project to the owner of the restrooms.The plot was given by the Municipality of Kadikoy. The financial contributor as well as the contractor of the project comissioned the project to GA Architects as designers and concept leaders of the new underground public restrooms and the surrounding park area. As a first step GA Architects conceived restrooms that would be nestling underground (below the sea level), without disturbing the context of the site.

During the management  of the project different parts of the project were tendered to several sub-contractors (in other terms craftsmen). The stainless steel doors and the restroom cabins were made by door makers,  the concrete structure was poured with the help of qualified workers, etc. The presence of the Mosque, the old Municipality building and the underground public restrooms has generated the surrounding site. Although their architectural vocabulary is not similar they form a logic complex within the heart of the Kadiköy urban square.  During the Ottoman period, washing and purifying spaces were built beside administrative and religious complexes, shaping the urban grain of the city. Today the Kadiköy underground restrooms play the role of its predecessors of present Istanbul. The Kadikoy park project and the undeground restrooms originates from the habits and formations that already exist in the environment and tries to rehabilitate and clarify them. The main goal of the project is to convert a trivial passing way into a place of uplifiting memories. The core of the concept was to turn ‘’upside down’’  the dome of an early Ottoman period building type hamam (turkish public bath) and place it over a cube volume carved into the ground.

Strong and sterile materials (concrete, stainless steel, african granite, securite glazing) were chosen as a response to both vandalism and the sanitary demands of the underground facilities. The customs of building for such functions were reconsidered all through the building process and intricate structural details were conceived for each particular point of the design. As with all buildings in public use , vandalism is a main cause of concern for owners as well as Architects. Not suprisingly the men’s restrooms are where vandalism is at its most. The concrete walls have taken their stake, but vandalism is less succesfully achieved on stainless steel, consequently the stainless steel cabins have only suffered a deterioration of their satined finish. Because of durable  materials used, vandals are forced into an awareness of their acts, becoming extremely conscious of which tools to use. During the concept development and later during the construction, building tectonics were thriving elements for the project team. The  transition between the black granite flooring and the varnished block concrete walls were achieved by placing a strip of white pebbles along the side of the wall. Such tectonics were not only merely conceived for visual aesthetics but as well as for practical and sanitary usages.
The exigencies of the structural span length, lighting, lateral loading, ceiling height and daylight angles has influenced the shape of the roof structure. Although the underground restrooms have a rigid and heavy  structure based upon concrete (like the war shelters built during the First World War in Gallipoli, Turkey); transparency has achieved with the idea of Dan Graham’s two sided mirror installations. The facilities of the underground restrooms are either accessed through the womens staircased threshold or the men’s and disabled ramped entrance. The underground functions are installed within a square whereas the pedestrians read the underground restroom’s geometry as a circular one . The glazed ring wraping the upper half of the underground restrooms serves as a rotational role for the pedestrians as well as to the visitors. The contradiction and the ingeniousity of the structure leaves the visitors amazed.

In Anatolian mythology , grottos are usually watery and are associated with lunar goddesses, nymphs, prophecy, birth and a passage through subterranean realms of rebirth. They suggest the invisible, but often audible, flowing of water inside the earth and the sudden suprising appearances of springs. The insertion of opaque glazing and blocks cut (especially in the lobby area where the curtain wall meets with the concave concrete saucer) within the curtain walling structure of the underground restrooms reinforces the idea, that cave can hide secrets. The underground restrooms are placed under a concrete saucer covered by a bamboo (Saz in Turkish) and pebble garden. The concave shaped roof lets ample daylight to both of the facilities (women and men) during daytime. At night the radiating light from the inside forms a glimmering ring to the surrounding garden area. Thus an exceptional interaction is achieved between light and the interior spaces.

Although after its completion in 1996, the underground public restrooms are still not perceived as part of the public park by the visitors who use it. Probably because of the publics dis-interest of their immediate environment. On the other hand it has generated new roles within an urban society and an urban context. At day time , the lilly pool which collects during the year rainwater is used for fresh water for the flower sellers around the public park. The bamboo  garden on top of the facilities is used as an alternative playground for ‘’hide and seek’’ for children playing around the park area, at night it becomes a shelter for the homeless.