Istanbul is Constantinople is Design
Walking the streets of Istanbul, says Sophie Kalkreuth, involves navigating a dizzying Kaleidoscope of colours, patterns and textures.
The city of Istanbul is like a giant tapestry, a layered compendium of history and culture laid out across two continents. Design is everywhere. From the mosaics, tiles, ceramics, jewels, scarves and hand-woven carpets that line the shops of the steep, narrow lanes, to the grandeur of Byzantine architecture and minarets of mosques that mark the city’s iconic skyline.
From the ancient Tokapi Scroll – a compendium of geometric patterns used by craftsman who built the Islamic world – to the today’s trendy studios popping up on Galata’s cobblestoned streets, the transcontinental city reveals a fascinating combination of tradition and ongoing change.
Modern design in Turkey is a surprisingly recent phenomenon. But over the last few decades, young designers have started forging a new aesthetic informed by a rich history of craftsmanship.
Some have taken their talents abroad - Turkish ceramist Alev Ebuzziya Siesbye designed for Georg Jensen and Holmegaard in Copenhagen and Paris and achieved international fame for her groundbreaking techniques, while designer Ayse Birsel left Turkey to head up New York-based design studio birsel+seck. Others like Zeynep Fadillioglu and studio Autoban returned to Istanbul and are reinterpreting Turkish traditions through a contemporary, global lens.
“When we started there was no awareness of contemporary Turkish design. Hence we understood the importance of starting abroad, getting recognition from an international crowd so Turkish people would see us in an international context," says Ozdemir of the Turkish design duo Seyhan Ozdemir and Sefer Caglar, otherwise known as Autoban. Their firm has since completed well over 50 commercial interior design commissions in Turkey, from the glittering Istanbul Suites Hotel to the Vakko luxury department stores, to the redesign of Angelique nightclub.
For a recent project in the trendy Karaköy neighborhood, Autoban converted a former printing house into a contemporary café and bistro called Gaspar. The designers refurbished the stone façade of the building exterior and set the arched iron window frames at their original locations. For the interior, they conceived a contemporary interpretation of the 'Cabinet of Curiosities' -- an idea that flourished in Renaissance Europe.
Traditionally, collected ‘curiosities’ or objects were arranged in parallel or at 90-degree angles. For this space, the designers used plywood panels arranged in different shades and sized and elevations in vertical and horizontal positions. As a result, the space itself becomes both the cabinet and the curiosity – the beautiful object on display.
Being new to the international design scene is also an advantage for some young designers, says Joseph Grima, who along with Emre Arolat curated Istanbul's inaugural 2012 Design Biennial. He says Turkey's emerging economy and DIY attitude seems pointed to take advantage of shifts and changes to the design industry. In particular, the shift away from top-down systems of mass production that characterised the last century.
"It ultimately boils down to the emergence of the network as the productive model par excellence of our time," Grima says. "It's a complete shift away from the heroic figure of the designer toward the absence of any single figure as the author; more of a collaborative, networked approach."
From young designers to seasoned experts, we’ve rounded up a selection of studios that are fashioning a contemporary design language grounded in Turkish traditions.
Headquartered in Istanbul, B&T started its venture in a metal atelier with an aspiration to grow into a global design brand that facilitates connections between designer, producer and end user. Designer Alp Nuhoğlu created the playful Kirmizi chairs by injecting polyurethane bedding into a metal frame supported by steel springs and stainless steel legs. Upholstery is available in natural or artificial leather and other premium fabrics. www.b-t.com.tr
ZF Design Studio
Based in Istanbul, but with satellite offices in London and the Middle East, designer Zeynep Fadillioglu has become renowned for skillfully combining traditional artistry with her functional, contemporary approach to interiors. She began designing residential and commercial spaces and gained international recognition as the first woman in modern Turkey to design a mosque. Last year she also launched a new furniture line that combines sumptuous materials with contemporary lines. The Sedir was conceived as a modern version of the classical Ottoman divan and features a solid walnut base, while the Kazan armchair takes its inspiration from old Turkish cauldrons. http://zfdesign.com/
Istanbul-based studio and manufacturer Derin has built an international reputation for quality furniture with spare, well-defined lines and a unique sense of simplicity. Designed by founder Aziz Sariyer, who has collaborated on projects with Cappelini, Moroso and Altreforme, among others, the Az Table creates a sense of lightness with its three legged base and oval form that includes two drawers and functions as a work table or welcome desk. http://www.derindesign.com
In addition to fashioning chic interiors, Istanbul’s Autoban create a range of contemporary furniture pieces including shown The Throne Outdoor Series built from steel tube profiles and expanded metal sheets that have been slit and stretched to an array of diamond shaped openings. Balancing an industrial look of curvilinear metal structures with delicate lace-like surfaces, the series comes in five different sizes and the portable cushion is available in leather and fabric upholstery. www.autoban212.com
Bilge Nur Saltik
Born in Istanbul and educated in London, Bilge Nur Saltik is inspired by the human stories behind objects and often works with local artisans to create her products. Share Food is a ceramic tableware set inspired by Istanbul’s custom of sharing food as an expression of generosity and pleasure. The angled bottom of each plate and cup allows the vessels to rotate and adjust their position, thereby providing access to multiple diners. Each object also features a painted base that creates a soft glow on surfaces. www.bilgenursaltik.com
Turkish designer Yigit Ozer has created a range of three dimensional wall tiles for ceramic company Kutahya Seramik. Meant to enhance the architectural quality of spaces, the tiles include Arc Collection and Nexus, hexagonal tiles that are cast with two relief designs, pentagons and hexagons and two diamonds. They can be laid horizontally, vertically or in combinations to produce a variety of honeycomb patterns. http://www.yigitozer.com/
This story appeared in the Fall 2014 Issue of FORM