Istanbul to get new opera house by 2019: Erdoğan

Istanbul to get new opera house by 2019: Erdoğan

Istanbul to get new opera house by 2019: Erdoğan

A new opera house will replace Istanbul’s Atatürk Culture Center (AKM) in 2019, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed.

“I want to give you some happy news. We are demolishing the AKM building in Istanbul and building a bigger and much more modern building in its place,” Erdoğan said on Nov. 1, speaking at the 3rd Tourism Council at the presidential compound in Ankara.

He stated that construction of the new opera house would officially begin on Nov. 6, with aims to finish the project by the 2019 elections.

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

The AKM’s new architect is Murat Tabanlıoğlu, son of architect Hayati Tabanlıoğlu, who built the original AKM building in 1969, private broadcaster CNN Türk reported on Aug. 7.

The new building will consist of a cultural center overlooking Taksim Square and Gezi Park. It includes an opera house, 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.

“We will build a magnificent opera house,” Erdoğan told reporters on Aug. 7 when he initially unveiled the concept.

“We will build a beautiful monument in Istanbul by incorporating unused spaces that surround the current cultural center into a new building complex. With the planning phase complete, we will start construction soon,” he said.

Construction for the original AKM building 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 Tabanlıoğlu as architect. 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.

Tabanlıoğlu took charge of the repairs and the building reopened eight years later under a new name, the Atatürk Cultural Center.

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. These works were later cancelled as restoration was found to be “impossible.”