Ümraniye, located in the Asian side of Istanbul, is one of the most populated district of the city, and also the fastest growing and changing. In recent years, intense building activity led to the construction of new residences, offices, shopping malls, sport facilities, schools.
The local government recently committed to beginning a process of modernization of the whole district, both architectural and structural, in order to transform the area in one of the crucial points of the metropolis.
Therefore, particular attention is paid to the creation of spaces for citizens.
It is in this context that Rome based architectural firm SUS&HI office, founded by architects Giada Calcagno and Gianluca Littardi, was asked to develop a proposal for 29 Mayis Meydani (29th May Square). The project is part of a vast urban transformation, designed by various international architectural firms, which involves the construction of highly qualifying services (including a university, a hospital, a mosque, a conference center with an auditorium), modern mobility infrastructure (a new tram line with spaces pertinent to it), and public spaces.
Among them, 29 Mayis Meydani is particularly relevant.
Placed on top of a freeway, south of a broad hill on which the new university campus, hospital and mosque will rise, the plaza will connect the residential area with the services complex, stitching up the tear due to the freeway.
The increase in the pedestrian flow, consequence of the new tram line, will make of the plaza the main access gate to the complex itself.
This dual nature, both crossing and aggregation gate, has guided the design choices, leading to the conception of a large roofed plaza.
The roof itself is the key element of the project. By synthesizing very modern tecnology with Arabic traditions, evoked by both form and pattern, it represents the mixture of cultures, forms, customs, that is typical of Istanbul, true bridge between Europe and Asia. This recall of arabic traditions, linked to the future construction of the mosque, doesn't however result in shallow imitation or inept mocking. The context is accepted, along with the strong trend for change that the area carries.
Under this sort of big perforated tent, which offers protection while still being open, the plaza creates a fundamental pedestrian connection above the freeway, and at the same time acts as a functional filter between residences and services. By protecting the pedestrian area from the noise of the freeway underneath, framing the view of the city by hiding the road itself, and finally weakening sun rays whilst encouraging ventilation, it also acts as a physical filter. It is this materiality, albeit light, this protection, albeit subtle, that makes this an aggregative space, more than just a bridge.
The two side volumes, housing cafes, shops, exhibition spaces, help to make the square, more than just a passage, a place to stop and stay: a new space for the community. The volumes are mostly glass cled and light, thus not competing with the roofing. Instead they highlight its symbolic and functional quality.
They emphasize the dimensional ambiguity of the roofing: a tent, but at a urban scale.
This double scale, both local and urban, justified by the traits and the localization of the project, guides and strengthens the design.
Although it solves a precise and limited node, its strong image can make it a metropolitan icon, a symbol of the growth of the Ümraniye district and of the whole Turkey.
Location: Istanbul, TR
My Role: Principal architect
Additional Credits: Giada Calcagno