Located in the district of Beşiktaş, along the western bank of the Bosphorus, is the recently completed Istanbul Maritime Museum, designed by Turkish firm Teget Architecture. The winners of a 2004 design competition, the Teget team was up against a number of reputable firms from the country and abroad due to the project’s high-profile.
Challenged by the building codes of the region that don’t allow the building of contemporary edifices along the banks of the Bosphorus, the architects took hold of the opportunity to add to the historic waterway skyline with a design that would contribute to the strait’s long-held connection to the city.
Inspired by the country’s maritime heritage, the museum’s design features geometric forms, copper, stone and white fibre panels, as well as a water-facing façade. Featuring a range of artefacts and materials including ship models, maps, photographs, navigation tools, clothing and nearly 40 Ottoman Sultan boats that date back between the 1500s and 1900s, the museum’s multi- layered plan maximises views of its extensive collection, and the surrounding land.
While an older Maritime Museum already existed on site, the architects were tasked with creating a new building to adjoin the old. The challenges of relocating and displaying the delicate objects allowed the architects to brainstorm and implement creative solutions.
“We were asked to design the exhibit providing reasonable physical conditions and necessary logistic planning without moving the very fragile collection out of the site, and managing this within a very limited space,” said Mehmet Kütükçüoglu, architect and partner at Teget. “So we came up with several phases and strategies to minimise the displacement of the exhibit while carrying on construction work. Our main focus was the boat gallery. Given the spatial constraints, a second floor was ipso facto.”
Consisting of a series of double-decked ship sheds, the layout provides various observation positions. Seven bridges differing in spans of 50 to 25 metres are placed in a staggering order, creating voids between them and subdividing the space with each content reserving its own narrow shelf.
The form of the museum’s façade and roof are direct results of the internal architecture. Rather than a traditional box that’s sealed at the entrance, the design allowed for strips of alternating solids and voids, glazings and enclosures.
The architects chose to work with materials that age well, like copper, stone and white fibre panels. According to Kütükçüoglu, the material palette reflects not only the building’s function but also its location, tying together the design’s many influences.
White is the preferred clothing colour for sailors, Kütükçüoglu said, with the panels covering the city-facing façade. On the seaside, sheets made of copper – a material often used in maritime construction as well as in Istanbul architecture – frame the museum’s glazing. Chosen also because it’s a ‘responsive material’, the architects look forward to its changing characteristics. The museum also applies sandstone, the hue of which changes according to sunlight.
“The plannimetric refractions of a fractal line as an outcome of the chronological and dimensional order of the collection is further accentuated in three dimensions with alternating solids and voids, each corresponding [with] a cladded material,” reads the project’s text. “Solids in eternit, voids in copper. The whole composition rises from a shallow pool, which connects the gallery to the sea.”
The museum also boasts inherently sustainable features. While using controlled natural lighting to brighten the space, the building’s materials and structural systems were also environmentally-friendly and recyclable.
“Instead of separating itself from the city, the museum creates an alternative space between the Bosphorus and the downtown area,” said Kütükçüoglu. “The Beşiktaş-facing façade was withdrawn from the given boundaries for that purpose, and it became possible for us to design a relatively small, yet peaceful plaza within the exhausting chaos of the city. The lobby of the museum can be accessed and used without any ticket. This free-pass space, which is surrounded by a shop, café and child-care room, will be used easily for daily encounters.”
He added, “The museum enables a dynamic and distinctive connection for people visiting it. Every step in the building reveals different perspectives of the city, from the Bosphorus and its frequent ferries, to the crowded plaza full of skaters, tourists and commuters stuck in heavy traffic near the Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa statue.”