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Suryapi with BIG

When asked to design a 120,000m² housing project on a site of 60,000m² for a developer based in Istanbul, Bjarke Ingels Group decided to invite Superpool to think together. Looking at the city behind the picturesque hills of the Bosphorus, repeated mistakes are visible; developers’ desires for efficiency seem to have handcuffed the Turkish housing typology into blocks with, typically, four units around a central core. The consistent result is that up to a third of these units are compromised; without views, facing other units. And even though generally the zoning laws allow only 25-50% of a given site to be developed, punctured by these indifferent towers, the left over green space is seldom usable. A thousand isolated towers do not make a city.

So, BIG and Superpool’s reactions are almost instant and the same: in the suffocated context of Umraniye, the open space of the site has to be preserved at all costs. After all, architecture is not only about the life within buildings, but outside of them, in between, around and on top of them. In fast growing cities where administrative power is weak in protecting the city’s common good, architects need to envision buildings as urban landscape and shelter not only individuals or families, but also communities.

Sur Yapi’s site in Umraniye is perfect to achieve this sense of place-making because it is the last large vacant site in the central city. Rather than filling it blindly with even more of the same, we propose to turn the typical Turkish development inside out.

Rather than a cluster of scattered towers filling up the free space, we propose to free the site for a generous urban oasis. The built program is concentrated in a built outline framing the central park. The central garden is like an Islamic courtyard at the scale of a park. Similar in size to the Ottoman Groves or ‘Koru’s’, it gives a real sense of nature and provides the residents with a taste of the grand palatial gardens previously enjoyed exclusively by the Sultan’s court.

The private park becomes a social space where the local residents can relax and socialize, sheltered from the surrounding traffic noise by the inhabited wall of their own homes. Not only do the residents benefit from living right next door to their own private park, all apartments also have their own private winter garden.

Rather than exploiting central Istanbul’s last remaining free space, we propose to preserve it for all eternity for the coming residents and their families, friends and guests.

The inhabited wall is like a citadel - Suryapi - at the scale of a neighborhood. The linear building traces the site limits, outlining the largest park area possible. The wall rises and falls in peaks and valleys to exploit views or allow sunshine to reach the park. Like the walls of a fortress, the wall can be high or low, penetrated by gates or elevated in the form of towers.

Each apartment has a large covered garden that penetrates the wall, providing sunshine and views in both directions. At some places large openings serve as gates to the surrounding city, giving access to the sanctuary within. The upper apartments have access to generous roof gardens with plantings and trees – like little villas on the nth floor.

All residents have spectacular views of the central park, as well as of the immediate urban surroundings towards the street. On one side the dense urban environment of central Istanbul, on the other the tranquil sanctuary of the central garden. Urban and suburban - dense and open at the same time.

SUPERPOOL: Selva Gürdoğan, Gregers Tang Thomsen, Seda Gecü, Magdalena Gössinger, Marta Marszal, Matthias Poen

BIG: Bjarke Ingels, Ole Schrøder, Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Christian Alvarez Gomez, Xu Li, Benjamin Engelhardt, Daniel Sundlin, Brian Yang, Cat Huang, Gaetan Brunet, Alysen Hiller, Stanley Lung

Grontmij I Carl Bro: Kerem Sadıklar, Maja Asaa, Christoffer Borgwardt-Stampe, Daniel Reinert, Søren Aagaard, Morten Hell, Johnny Lund-Petersen, Thanh Quoc Nguyen, Merete Madsen

Type: Housing
Size: 120.000 m2
Client: Sur Yapi
Collaborators: BIG, Grontmij | Carl Bro
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Status: Settled