In Turkey’s capital city of Istanbul, creative teams at Emre Arolat Architecture have recently completed a redesign and rebuilding of a stunning art spot to establish the Pilevneli Gallery; a place that blends new art with adapted old urban spaces.
The Pilevneli Gallery is one small part of a larger, country-wide effort to repurpose and revitalize old, often run down city buildings and spaces in order to give them a new lease on life in ways that enrich and invigorate the social fabric and highlight pieces of local art and culture for admiration and appreciation.
For this gallery, designers transformed an empty building in the Dolapdere neighbourhood in the Turkish district of Taksim. This spot actually sits right in the heart of the area we mentioned that is currently undergoing larger updating efforts that are focused on the reuse of space for arts and culture. Sitting on a main street, the new structure commands attention from the street.
The gallery grabs one’s eye at first thanks to its shape. Compared to the older, more historical buildings typical of the area, this structure is minimalist, linear looking, and extremely neat. Besides being quite cubic in its shape, the building makes unique use of space in the form of several void spaces amidst its volumes.
As Recently as five years ago, this area of the city of Istanbul was quite run down and considered underprivileged. Its central location and proximity to commercial districts, however, makes it such a perfectly located neighbourhood that letting it become dilapidated was deemed not an option by the city and local designers.
Now, it has become a slightly unplanned but overall colourful, eclectic, and unique area of town chalk full of small businesses and local firms running out of small, old buildings that have been refurbished to counteract weathering and age. The street on which the gallery sits is also home to boutique hotels, several other galleries, and even more than one museum.
Above all other priorities, this particular design team wanted to make sure they avoided what often happens in neighbourhood overhauls, which is the eradication of original buildings and therefore part of the city’s history. Instead, they wanted to preserve as much of the building and street context as they could while still improving on the structure and making the interior far more contemporary.
The rough fire brickwork found on both the exterior and in several indoor spots, like the stairwells, is a great example of how designers took a blended approach, hitting the mark somewhere between redoing and revamping. These walls received a few new spots in the brickwork to repair damage and then certain spots were painted, resulting in a minimally repaired look that matches the original and pays it tribute but still looks new and stands stronger.
The situation for support and core strength of the building was similar. Existing columns and beams that still stood tall and undamaged were cleaned up and preserved to the best possible degree, while a few additional supports were built in spots where damage, advanced wear and tear, or weak spots were present, thus giving the building a stronger frame.
Once the original aspects of the building had been restored, designers took a turn with their approach and built the primary art display space of the gallery like a contrastingly modern and contemporary looking inset in the north-east end. Laid out like an actual experience, rather than just a few paintings hanging on the walls, the space is built like a clean, sharp looking white cube.
This spot creates a stunning and rather stark contrast with the naked brick of the old structure. The white exhibition walls help the art pieces pop and stand out, while the presence of brick and beams nearby add local and contextual context without distracting from the artistic experience itself.
Everything in this space was quite strategic in its colour, materiality, placement, and so on, right down to the windows. In fact, the placement of the windows actually plays a huge role in the experience! Designers chose to seclude certain parts of the gallery behind solid walls that can’t be seen from outside the building at all, but other spots have carefully placed windows that intentionally show certain parts of the neighbourhood where the sights laying outside in the neighbourhood show off a bit of the local culture and incorporate the scene into the gallery itself like a sort of live art.
Photos by Thomas Mayer