Istanbul's 'Accidentally Ecofriendly' Architects

. The light-filled offices of the Turkcell R&D building.

Architect Hasan Çalışlar says he doesn't incorporate "green" features in his buildings because they're environmentally friendly -- he only uses them if they "make you feel better in the space." For his firm's design for a telecommunications building on the outskirts of Istanbul, that meant working with the slope of the site, maximizing natural light, creating an open architectural style, and adding some rooftop green space. Perhaps you could call it accidentally eco-friendly architecture.

"Green buildings" are nowhere near the buzzword in Turkey that they are in the United States and Europe, so I was intrigued when I read a post on about Erginoğlu and Çalışlar Architecture's new eco-friendly design for a telecommunications R&D center for Turkcell in Istanbul's Tübitak Marmara Research Center Zone, an cluster of high-tech enterprises about an hour outside of the city that Çalışlar likens to Silicon Valley.

Last week, I met with firm co-founder Çalışlar and architects Ayça Taylan and Işık Süngü at their office in the Ortaköy district of Istanbul to see if the project was as unusual as I thought.

The 'Spirit' Of The Environment
Though the firm has designed concert halls, large-scale apartment buildings, offices, and schools, few of its projects have incorporated the kind of sustainable features seen in the Turkcell building -- an approach the architects agreed is rare in Turkey. They do, however, "try to catch the environment's spirit" in their designs, says Süngü. For a house in Bodrum, on Turkey's Aegean coast, that meant using some stone found on the land in the construction; for a cluster of day-use beach buildings at a Black Sea resort, it meant working in colors and textures similar to those of the surrounding coastline, even using sand from the beach to make some of the decorative plaster.

. The green roof (top) and side elevation (bottom) of the Turkcell R&D building.

In the case of the Turkcell building, completed last June, both its site and its intended use lent themselves to incorporating eco-friendly features. The techies who work at the 800-person building travel far to get there and often work long hours, sometimes spending days on end in the office while under a project deadline. "The building has to help maintain that kind of lifestyle," says Süngü, so it includes a variety of amenities -- from a fitness center to dorms for overnight stays to a movie screen that drops down in the main stairway so workers can watch important football matches.

Lots Of Natural Light
With light -- especially the natural variety -- being so important to office workers' well-being, the building was designed with an eastern alignment, angled side windows, and an open central area, features that allow natural light to enter from many directions, lowering electricity costs.

The open architecture also allows workers to "see what's going on at all levels" of the building, Süngü notes, adding, "That's good for a communications company!" Double-glazed windows help modulate interior temperatures and adjustable mechanical blinds on the roof divert the sun when it gets too hot.

A Green Roof To Stroll On
The architects "used the existing slope to profit from the light and the view," Çalışlar says. Workers enter through the western-facing ground floor, a single-story section that houses meeting rooms, social facilities, and the dorms. As they move through the building, it opens up and drops down until they reach the main office area, a four-story section with floor-to-ceiling windows and a panoramic view. The angled structure of the building also allows the landscaped roof to serve a recreational purpose as well as an environmental one -- this is a green roof you can walk right up onto for a leisurely break in the grass.

. The architects' eco-friendly, ocean-going "chain village" concept for the Bodrum peninsula.

Another green Erginoğlu and Çalışlar design will probably remain on the drawing board -- dreamed up a few years back for the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale, their "chain village" is a concept for a floating settlement with a continually changing view. Each link on the "chain" stretching between two parts of the Bodrum peninsula would be a habitation unit, with the structure's upper level public space and its lower levels private residences with ocean access. Wind turbines and solar panels would power the development, while the current passing below the chain would be used for natural cooling and heating. Sounds like a dream home to me.

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Istanbul's 'Accidentally Ecofriendly' Architects
Architect Hasan Çalışlar says he doesn't incorporate 'green' features in his buildings because they're environmentally friendly -- he only uses them if they 'make you feel better in the space.'

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