Dynamic convoluted lines evoking tradition blend with a contemporary context, echoing the identity of a city such as Istanbul, where past and present intertwine
Dealing with a cultural heritage of Turkey's caliber is no easy task, especially when it is architecture making that heritage tangible and solid. Through its design of the Istanbul-based Divan Kuruçeşme events and conference center for the Divan Hotel group, GAD Architecture has reflected in detail on this difficulty, stylishly succeeding in its reworking of the structure, spaces and materials of the city's past and traditions for the present day.
The edifice stands in the European Kuruçeşme district ‒ a Bosphorus area famous for its florid hills, many villages and an architectural mix mainly offering residential examples from various periods: hence the entire project strove to preserve a direct link with the Ottoman past while also breaking away from it, particularly in the interiors, introducing design features and lines with a contemporary air. GAD Architecture's design strategy has in fact introduced a new language, built on what was already present on site: from masonry retaining walls, to terraces, vaulting and arches, which were once part of a pair of yali (the Turkish word for seafront buildings, particularly by the Istanbul Bosphorus) that no longer exist.
The designers explained that the project concept began to take shape by observing Istanbul's Bosphorus Strait ‒ the heart of the city and the soul of Turkish identity. The city shore, both on the Asian side and the European one, with its time-honored urban fabric, has always been an area known for its architectural constraints and strict building regulations ‒ introduced primarily to limit building height and size as well as population density in the whole area. The construction process began on a bureaucratic level in 2008, while actual building started in 2012 and drew to a close in 2022: a lengthy timespan that offered many chances to reassess the architecture strategy while in progress.
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The project included extension of an existing terrace belonging to the main events hall accommodating up to 1000 people: an undulating structure has created a roof to the area below, a large space used primarily for weddings and company meetings. The new roofing is an interesting example of advanced structural engineering in glass and steel where size and planning were defined by the existing historical context: foundations and walls from the Ottoman period were brought to light during the construction phase and emphasized in both the interiors and external design, having these guide visitors from the entrance to the banqueting hall and beyond, towards the upper terraces. What emerges from this approach is continuity in materials and color, with rich brick and ochre surfaces melding with weathered steel and green marble for walls and external paving. This continuity picks up on the same connection between landscape and architecture, extending also to the service-area roofing, designed as green terraces on the upper levels. Parking areas and plant rooms have in fact been located on the lowest levels, with two floors below sea level.
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Elevations have been preserved as they were in the past, but the key for the architects was being able to give meaning to this unusual (for a country like Turkey) combination of old and new components. This is why the interiors are extremely expressive, especially in their convoluted geometrics and the natural lighting illuminating the many vaulted spaces.
The Divan Kuruçeşme architecture is one of the most successful attempts to conserve Istanbul's historical past and its imagery while shaping these into new architecture featuring contemporary forms.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Construction Area: 10346 m2
Site Area: 6851 m2
Client: Divan Hotel Group
Architect: Gokhan Avcioglu - GAD Architecture
Interior Design: GAD & Sinan Kafadar - METEX
Structures: Yapı Akademisi Engineering
Electrical: Elsan Electric
HVAC: Cilingiroglu Engineering & Consultancy
Landscape: DS ARCHITECTURE
Wayfinding: Gokhan Karakus & Gozde Eren
Lighting: NA LightStyle – Nergiz Arifoglu
Acoustics: Nurgül Beyazit
Photography by Cemal Emden, courtesy of GAD Architecture