Grimshaw Architects - Arter, a sustainable and vibrant cultural hub
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Arter, a sustainable and vibrant cultural hub

Grimshaw Architects

Culture  /  Completed
Grimshaw Architects
Arter, a subsidiary of the Vehbi Koç Foundation, houses a multidisciplinary programme of contemporary art, comprised of exhibitions, events, learning and film programme and publications. At its new home, Arter will strive to be a sustainable, vibrant cultural hub, making its broad range of programmes accessible to everyone.

Arter is situated in the Beyoğlu area of Istanbul, on the north bank of the Golden Horn. This area is fast becoming one of the most dynamic and fashionable districts in Europe. It embodies Istanbul’s new confidence, but also its complex history. The area is being renovated at a startling pace and has become the heart of Istanbul’s cultural district.

The building reoccupies the site of a former warehouse building. By tightening the footprint of the new museum, a more generous urban public realm is created both to the busy street at the front and also to the quieter rear with a public park. These external spaces are connected through the building by an ‘internal street’ that negotiates the steep level change across the site, creating a permeability and accessibility to the wider area.

Those approaching the building are met by a sculpted concrete and pearlescent ceramic façade that shimmers in the Istanbul sunlight and references the city’s rich history for tiling and tessellated 3d surfaces. The design for the façade capitalizes on the significant expanses of solid façade that result from the enclosed gallery spaces within, bringing life and sculpture to the exterior of the building. A play on the idea of rustication, the envelope is made up from GRC tiles that are overlaid on the massing of the building, giving depth to the surface. They range between concave and convex forms that allow a play of light and shadow that, in turn, animate the surface. Within the center of each rustication is a ceramic glazed inlay tile that catches the light and offers some colour to the surface.

Historically, the technique of rustication would be applied to the plinth or ground plane of municipal buildings to outwardly demonstrate strength - the effect is quite impenetrable, protective and literally ‘spiky’. We play with this idea by lifting this treatment up and using it to clad the gallery volumes. In this sense, it becomes a device to protect the artworks of the museum above - spaces that require extensive environmental control and not too much sunlight. The ground plane can therefore be released and be as transparent as possible, forging a route through the building and presenting a welcoming and open entrance.

The public are drawn in via the street facing gallery and tall glazed opening that carves a route through the heart of the building. This welcoming, accessible space connects the lifted landscape park beyond to the street and serves to orient visitors to the performance spaces in the depth of the building and exhibition galleries above.

Sprawled across an indoor area of 18,000 sqm, Arter’s main function areas are connected by a central atrium that serves as the heart of the building. Spread across six floors, the galleries feature varying volumes, ceiling heights and a high degree of flexibility to facilitate the wide-range of exhibits.

The galleries are designed to be a series of interlinked and interwoven spatial volumes that allow for views across and between multiple levels. These volumes range from focused single height areas to a triple height atrium bathed in natural light. The journey flows between these spaces allowing audiences to appreciate the exhibitions in a dynamic way from a variety of perspectives. The curation of the artworks becomes a close harmony with the volumetric spaces of the building - opening possibilities which cannot be achieved with a traditional enfilade arrangement.

It was important to maintain a coherence of a wider gallery route, however, within this overarching structure there is an inherent flexibility to subdivide the gallery into smaller discrete exhibition ‘loops’. Depending on the requirements of the evolving contemporary mediums - be it sound isolation for AV work, complete black out, or a particular artists exhibition - these can be as small as one room or multiple connected floors.

Learning spaces are housed within the gallery enclosures placing the education programme close to the artwork. These rooms look over the work and can be conceived as smaller gallery spaces, closed off for a teaching class, or simply as a resting area off the main gallery journey. They also provide a chance to look out from picture windows and reconnect to the city.

The final gallery space, the sculpture terrace, sits on the rooftop, open to the elements, for larger pieces to be seen against the backdrop of the Beyoğlu skyline.

Below ground, two specific performance spaces occupy the lower levels. They are designed as distinct spaces with explicit functions - the black box for immersive artwork and performance, and the theatre space for performances ranging from lectures to dance recitals, with a sprung floor. The connecting large lower foyer, adjoining both these spaces, can be opened up to both, demonstrating how the whole base floor can be formatted for larger concerts, collections or performances. Both halls offer multiple seating options, which allows them to host large-scale installations or projects that require multi-channel panoramic projection.


 United Kingdom
 Vehbi Koç Foundation
 17050 mq
 Architect: Grimshaw, Executive Architect: Turgut Alton Mimarlik
 Project Management: VEHBI KOC VAKFI, Structural Engineering: THORNTON TOMASETTI and A-TEKNIK, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering: MAX FORDHAM , Façade Engineering: THORNTON TOMASETTI, Quantity Surveyor: ENTEGRE
 Ark Insaat
 Project Management: VEHBI KOC VAKFI, Structural Engineering: THORNTON TOMASETTI and A-TEKNIK, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering: MAX FORDHAM , Façade Engineering: THORNTON TOMASETTI, Quantity Surveyor: ENTEGRE
 Quintin Lake


Founded in 1980, Grimshaw operates worldwide, employing over 600 staff. Our international portfolio covers various sectors, with substantial experience in aviation projects of all scales, leisure schemes, transport, offices, education, sports, the industrial sector and master planning.

Grimshaw’s dedication to high quality design is paramount, whether working on low budget structures or high cost buildings with complex technical specification. The practice believes in its responsibility for its work to contribute to worldwide environmental improvement and sustainability. In 2000, Grimshaw became the first major architectural practice to meet the ISO14001 environmental management system standard. We are experienced collaborators, adept at organising multi-disciplinary teams and have a wide knowledge base of specialist functions that allows us to effectively challenge ideas and preconceptions, creating a coherent, high-quality design that satisfies the client’s vision.

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