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Wed 10 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Modern times

One half of Architect of the Year duo Melkan and Murat Tabanlioglu talks to MEA about flying the flag for modernism in the historic city of Istanbul.

Modern times

I studied first in Turkey and then Barcelona, where I did my masters in urban design.

It is not a coincidence that Murat and I are both architects. We met on a construction site of a building in Spain, where I was doing the interiors and he was the architect.

We look at architecture the same way we look at life. Our views about architecture are sometimes similar and sometimes different, but when we merge all of them together the result is good.

Day to day I believe it’s a nice to have the practice in Istanbul. You can be far from everything and in the heart of everything at the same time.

My favourite building is the Ataturk Cultural Centre. It’s classic and still new. It burned down the year I was born, and was re-opened in 1977.

In Istanbul there are buildings that come from 1,000 years ago, and others from 500 years ago. Now we are making the buildings of today and Istanbul is very capable of carrying both these things together.

Cities like Vienna and Prague are very interesting but you never see anything new. It’s old and it comes to you slow, it’s boring. You admire it for one day, but the second day it’s nothing.

We are making architecture for today and tomorrow so we do not try to imitate the past, it is already done. We are modernist, of course, but I prefer the word contemporary.

I don’t like shiny architecture  and maybe this is the problem of Dubai. Everything is shiny and perhaps everything should not be shiny.We designed the tallest tower in Istanbul – the Sapphire Tower – and since it was built the municipality have cut the maximum height level. They will never let any tower in Istanbul be as high, so ours will always be the highest.

One of our aims is to create social and public places within our buildings, because often with private investments nobody can use them. On top of the Sapphire you can have your lunch and you can see over the city, it’s a social place.

It is interesting working in countries like Kazakhstan and the Ukraine. They are relatively new countries and they are starting from zero, like Dubai was.

The buildings are for the people, we should never forget this. We are not making sculptures, we are making machines for living.

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