On the Order of Objects: Mediating between Monuments, Museums, and Megaliths in the Historic Center of Istanbul

The studio is set in the area around the old Byzantine hippodrome in the historic center of Istanbul. Here an accumulation of buildings and groups of buildings over time provides strong evidence that architectural objects could produce effective urban orders between them.
The studio explores how objects, whether by accumulation or orchestration, have the ability to develop inter-relational qualities. It also seeks to extend this proposition from the discreet confines of the architectural project to the scale of urban ensembles. Instead of the monument/fabric conception of urban form by postmodernism that excepted monuments against the city fabric ordered by streets, and instead of the modernist object that highlighted the object’s radiant order against urban systems, the studio explores other possibilities of mediating between monuments, urban equipment, and ordinary buildings.

The site is a 140 x 250 meter block, located in the historic center of Istanbul, on the western side of the old Byzantine hippodrome. The hippodrome survives as a large plaza pierced by several columns and obelisks from the Byzantine era. It is now surrounded by Ottoman buildings that date from the 16th to the 19th century, most of which were built on the foundations of the hippodrome. On the opposite side of the hippodrome are three of Istanbul\’s most visited monuments, the Hagia Sophia, the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, and the Topkapi Palace.

Three main building complexes stand on this site: the 16th century palace of Ibrahim Pasha, the grand vizier of Sultan Suleyman, now turned into a Turkish and Islamic Museum, the abandoned Adliye, the federal courthouse, built between 1948 and 1971 by modernist architect Sedad Hakki Eldem, and a small cadastral archive dating from 1908.

The studio builds on the study of the orders among the existing objects on the site:

1) the serial, as manifest in the Adliye, the federal courthouse complex. Here, the repetition but also slight variations among volumes suggests a subtle but effective hierarchy among objects and spaces between them.
2) the aggregated, as registered in the ruins of the Byzantine palaces in the archaeological park. Whether linear or radial, these aggregated collections of rooms and spaces suggest that the monumental and the ordinary could be produced out of the same order.
3) the staggered, as exemplified in the Ottoman structures on the site. Here, the different courtyard buildings are linked to each other through binary adjacencies and local symmetries producing a relay of spaces that negotiate the irregularities of the neighborhood\’s section through rectilinear slippages.
4) the megalithic as illustrated in the obelisks and the remains of the hippodrome walls. This configuration entails breaking the architectural project into a series of ambiguously scaled volumes and spaces, but here on site, and in their ruin status, these megaliths exhibit an open configuration that transcends the confines of the individual object and its monumentality and suggest a vital urban logic.

The studio explores the possibility of relating between these different orders and using one or a combination of them to design new facilities on the site. Here again, the studio relies on some precedents from the site, such as Eldem\’s unrealized expansion of the Adliye (1978), but also on contemporary examples of mediation among objects.

The charge of the studio is to improve accessibility to the hippodrome area and to provide service facilities for the surrounding tourist attractions and museums.

– The studio is the sixth in a series of investigations on the interface between contemporary infrastructure and the historic fabric of Istanbul, and is sponsored by the Aga Khan Program at the GSD.