Grimshaw architects create Turkey's cultural hub with Arter Contemporary Art Museum

The museum for Vehbi Koç Foundation in Istanbul is a multidisciplinary arts complex, with a façade that filters light through the building and mirrors the movement of the city.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Jul 28, 2020

The Arter Museum of Contemporary Arts presents a vibrant piece of architecture to the city of Istanbul in Turkey. It has been designed by architectural firm Grimshaw, which has offices worldwide, and won this design competition back in 2012. Following the win, a multi-disciplinary team addressed the scale, complexity and aspiration of the design and building process, in collaboration with Istanbul’s Turgut Alton Architects and other local consultants, specialists and contractors to build the representative of art and culture to the people of Istanbul.

  • The Arter Contemporary Art Museum’s triple height atrium | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    The Arter Contemporary Art Museum’s triple height atrium Image Credit: Martin Davies
  • Ground floor plan | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    Ground floor plan Image Credit: Courtesy of Grimshaw architects

The building’s exterior offers a unique impression. The part of the building that houses the exhibition galleries has been articulated through subtle chamfering of the façade, adding plasticity to the otherwise blank façades typical of gallery building typology. Three-dimensional convex and concave rhomboid-shaped panels create a dramatic and inviting envelope, and reflect the sun as it moves across the museum throughout the day. The design creates a rich palette of changing light and shadow that animates the building in an exciting and dynamic way, providing an engaging and contemporary reinterpretation of Istanbul’s historic mosaic façade.

  • The unique and dynamic façade made up of ceramic pearlescent tiles | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    The unique and dynamic façade made up of ceramic pearlescent tiles Image Credit: Martin Davies
  • Section | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    Section Image Credit: Courtesy of Grimshaw Architects

An addition to Turkey’s philanthropic Vehbi Koç Foundation, the Arter Contemporary Art Museum is a vibrant cultural hub that brings together artists and audiences to celebrate contemporary art in all its forms and disciplines. Conceived as a dynamic multi-layered, interdisciplinary public building for showcasing artistic works, it offers a rich cultural programme to stimulate and challenge its audience.

  • The exhibition spaces and art exhibits of varied heights | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    The exhibition spaces and art exhibits of varied heights Image Credit: Martin Davies
  • View towards the city | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    View towards the city from inside the Arter Contemporary Art Museum Image Credit: Martin Davies

Articulating Vehbi Koç’s vision for social responsibility, the design hinges around spaces designed to promote access for everyone, both within and around the museum. Derived from concepts of transparency and fluidity, inspiring and adaptive public spaces were the core of the design of the building. Strategically positioned large picture windows have been used as a way of opening the building to the street and to connect the gallery to the street, and thus the city. This chain of thought offers a strong link between the city of Istanbul, the museum and its art, while still fulfilling the functional requirements of gallery spaces.

  • Overlooking and interlocking spaces for exhibitions and shows | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    Overlooking and interlocking spaces for exhibitions and shows Image Credit: Martin Davies
  • The rear entrance of the building | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    The rear entrance of the building Image Credit: Martin Davies

An important aspect of the museum’s connect with its context is the triple height entrance gallery, which generates a physical public route through the centre of the museum, connecting Dolapdere street with the park to the rear, making the building effectively face both sides, making it accessible and welcoming to all. This almost-public-yet-private internal street negotiates the steep level change across the site and is the main organising element of the building that makes the people accept it more as a public building.

  • The external façade | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    The external façade Image Credit: Martin Davies
  • Night view of the building | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
    Night view of the building Image Credit: Martin Davies

Below the ground level, two performance halls accommodate programmes of film and performing arts, as well as conferences and panel discussions. The Sevgi Gönül Auditorium’s telescopic seating system incorporates 168 people, while the ‘black box’ Karbon theatre has a flexible seating structure for up to 332 people. The library has been designed to offer a space for research, while retail and catering facilities provide relief and relaxation. The tiled concave and convex façade, created with ceramic pearlescent tiles, helps the modular variation from solid to perforated as the façade moves from solid to open. The project’s immersive black box space is the largest in Turkey for the projection of art, dance and performance.

The performance space on the lower ground floor | Arter Contemporary Art Museum by Grimshaw Architects | STIRworld
The performance space on the lower ground floor Image Credit: Martin Davies

The Arter Contemporary Art Museum’s galleries range in scale and volume, with interlocking double height spaces that are created to offer a multitude of flexible configurations and capacities to cater to its diverse artistic programmes. Framed views and connectivity between exhibition areas provide natural way-finding and orientation. Learning spaces overlook each of the main galleries, allowing discovery and interpretation programmes. All the spaces in the interiors have been intricately designed with varied heights that straddle to reach the outer edge of the building and define the punctuated windows that give a unique expression to the façade.

Project Details

Name: Arter Contemporary Art Museum
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Architect: Grimshaw Architects
Project size: 18000 sqm
Completion date: 2019

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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