The Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) is located at the eastern end of Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul. Not only is it one of Turkey’s most important cultural buildings, but also a prime example of modernist architecture in the country. Built in 1969 and renewed in 1977, it has stood abandoned for years now. The building’s multifaceted history serves as a catalyst to understanding modern Turkey, with political and technological developments reflected in AKM’s destiny.
The exhibition addresses the architecture and ongoing story of this cultural edifice in a kind of collage. This is composed of models and especially the many artifacts from the archives of Murat Tabanlioglu. Plans, photographs, letters, and mockups illustrate how history, function, and architecture are all intertwined. The plans for the AKM’s “re-composition” by Tabanlioglu Architects are also presented.
These shed light not only on the impact of the cultural center on the urban fabric, but also the challenges of designing a contemporary opera house that must operate like a complex machine. A key aspect is the preservation of the AKM’s architectural structure with its iconic façade. This issue touches on the wider debate on contemporary cultural preservation. While buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries are preserved and maintained in many places, modern buildings from the second half of the 20th century are often demolished – as has occurred in Germany with much of its postwar modernist architecture. In this regard, the AKM can be seen as an important case study.