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ARCHITECTS • LFA DIGITAL 2020  

ISIL ÜNAL
PATTÜ • ISTANBUL

The photo was taken during the construction of the installation we had designed as a part of MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program (YAP) at Istanbul Modern. We were nominated to join the YAP competition, which provides emerging architectural practices the opportunity to design a temporary installation in the garden of the museum. Our design proposal was selected as that year’s winner.  Although the competition brief was quite vague “an innovative design that provides shade and seating” our proposal won because it was also deeply related with the history and politics of the space around the museum.  In all our projects, we like to dig deeper and try to understand the memory of place, its relation to the city and to people. The area around the site, including Istanbul Modern,  was soon to be demolished making way for a new cruise port complex. The site was one of the oldest harbors of the city, yet it looked very new, but also contained many reminders of past functions : a clocktower from when it was a military barracks and cannon factory, a wall from the 20’ies when it was the first car factory of the young Republic, the current warehouses built in the 60ies by a famous Turkish architect. As our research continued we saw a pattern of demolition and rebuilding that went back to the byzantine era. So that was the starting point of our design: All that is solid (melts into air). Our design is a chaotic arrangement of the shadows and memories of past constructions, appearing and disappearing again. The kinetic structure measured real time luminosity data to mechanically bring to motion the colorful fins on the facades, providing shade when there is sun, but this also made the installation to constantly change its form and colors during the day. We had to oversee the whole process from design to completion and do it with a tight budget and deadline. Like many of our projects the design had a lot of experimental features, and we had to solve them as the construction was going on, luckily we had teamed up with a good engineering firm that also sponsored the project and everything was ready by the opening day. 

It was a pivotal project in my career that brought our practice international attention. But it was also a perfect, compact, summary of our approach to design that we still continue today: building our own brief through a deep research and using this research to create new stories about space; and taking experiences of individuals as our central focus, finding new and fun ways to communicate with them, may it be bold colorful graphics or interesting interactive gadgets. 

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