Demolishing work at Istanbul’s historic Atatürk Cultural Center kicks off

Demolishing work at Istanbul’s historic Atatürk Cultural Center kicks off

Demolishing work at Istanbul’s historic Atatürk Cultural Center kicks off

Demolishing works at the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) began on Feb. 13 to replace one of Istanbul’s landmark buildings with a cultural complex that will include an opera house, an exhibition center and other facilities.

Heavy construction vehicles arrived at the site on Feb. 13 and full-scale demolishment work is expected to start soon.

The new building will consist of a cultural center overlooking Taksim Square and Gezi Park. The opera house within the premises of the new building will host up to 2,500 people.

The new building to replace the AKM will also have theatre, cinema and concert halls, an exhibition center, a convention hall, a library, a museum, an art gallery, cafés and restaurants.

The total size of the center will increase to 35,206 square meters, up from 5,794 square meters.

The AKM’s new architect is Murat Tabanlıoğlu, the son of the architect who built the original AKM building, Hayati Tabanlıoğlu, in 1969.

Controversial project

In November 2017, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the new building would be completed in 2019.

“This project is much richer than the current project. Its multi-purpose design will satisfy many more needs,” Erdoğan said.

But the Chamber of Architects has repeated its criticism on the demolishment of the old building.

“The AKM is one of the monumental symbols of modern Turkish architecture and of the Republic,” the Istanbul branch of the chamber said in a statement on Feb. 13.

“The demolishment of AKM symbolizes the systematic attacks on the Republican era’s symbolic buildings,” the chamber claimed.

It also referred to a previous decision which deemed the AKM a cultural asset, calling the demolishment of the building “a crime.”

In 2005, then Culture Minister Atilla Koç proposed demolishing the building, saying it was not profitable enough. But the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) decided otherwise after demolition plans were met with fierce resistance.

In November 2007, the Istanbul Protection Board officially deemed the AKM “a cultural asset,” and in February 2012 restoration work commenced, with the support of 30 million Turkish Liras from Sabancı Holding.

Construction for the original AKM building, named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, began on May 29, 1946. However, due to a lack of funding, works were halted for many years.

Ten years later, building works began afresh with Hayati Tabanlıoğlu.

It was finished 23 years later, opening its doors on April 12, 1969, under the name of Istanbul Cultural Palace. Barely a year-and-a-half later, a fire broke out during a performance of Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” on Nov. 27, 1970, causing extensive damage.