“Slow living” in Istanbul

Director at DP Architects

As the founder of DP Urban, a subsidiary of DP Architects focusing on urban planning and design services, Chan Hui Min explains the inspiring narrative developed for the social spaces of Tersane Istanbul.

As a global team experienced at launching big urban transformation projects, what makes Istanbul an attractive and unique spot for DP Architects?

One of the reasons why we have been interested in Istanbul is because of its similarity to Singapore. We do a lot of projects internationally, but we don't pick many places to open an office. Istanbul is a bridge between the East and the West, just like Singapore. It has historically been a multicultural and multi- religious place. Singapore is pretty young compared to Istanbul. It is a very futuristic and high-tech city. Many visitors think that we live in a different century! Working at a place like Istanbul and learning about the roots of the city, while bringing in a more futuristic viewpoint, has been very rewarding for us.

What surprised your design team most about Istanbul, when you delved into the region’s rich heritage during the research and concept development phase?

The more you dig into it, the more you learn about Istanbul. You are constantly “delighted” by the amount of depth that you can go in all the social, economical and cultural aspects. It is a classic developer’s dilemma: While developing a project, you usually need to make up a story so that people would come. This place was just waiting to be uncovered. We didn’t need to create it. We just needed to uncover it to ensure that it would be a vibrant center in the city, almost a destination in itself!

This is not just another commercial residential project, but a truly integrated development project. Tersane Istanbul will be a “live-work-play” kind of a destination and like quite a self-sufficient village in itself. Once you have an integrated development, it is not just about an office, hospitality, or entertainment development, but it would be a mix of everything. The concept we have created here is like a “10-minute city”. Within 10 minutes, you can fulfill your daily needs.

The place will surely be loved by the locals, as it will not just be a place of convenience or glamour. It will be a place where a social community will also be built and that’s a wonderful thing. The gates will be open to the city. This is one of the rare things about this project. The shipyard site had been closed for hundreds of years. When it reopens to public use, people will see a part of their city that they had never been able to see before. Then they would be able to say, “This place is part of my history and my life!”

If we want people to love this place, we have to humble ourselves as designers / developers, and ask what matters to people. It is about the history, the well- being, the greenery, and the waterfront. Then you could start peeling the layers like an onion and feel the richness of the place.

How do you emphasize the industrial heritage of the place in the master plan you have done for retail, culture, and recreation areas?

We did not want to create completely alien forms and put them in the middle of a historical movie, here. We studied the area and the materials thoroughly. We did extensive research. We prepared a palette of materials inspired by the window frames, terracotta, brick, and wooden structures we have found here. That is why you would see a lot of these warehouse-inspired forms in the new buildings.

The existing buildings had all been covered with plaster. When we started to uncover them during the restoration, we found a ‘map’ of how these buildings had adjusted to changes and new functions over time. So we said, “We have to show that to the world!” We did not want to strip buildings down but approached them as if we were their next inheritors. That was our design philosophy and approach to the existing buildings. We have played with stories and phantasies and wilder forms in the spaces in between them, as you ultimately need to attract and entertain people.

It seems that ‘slow living’ is one of your core concepts as well. Could you highlight some of the architectural elements you have introduced to the project to make room for leisure and relaxation at Tersane Istanbul?

We used a strategy to make people slow down and appreciate their environment. To have more areas of interest, we planned the space like a story, as they do in the movies, in a way that would heighten senses and allow the visitors to appreciate every aspect of life. We interweaved various narratives to build the ‘slow living’ concept. There was a journey for the waterfront, a journey for industrial heritage, a journey for culture, and another for sustainability.

Historical preservation was another aspect. We took the opportunity of preserving the embodied carbon of these buildings. Can you imagine the amount of carbon that would be released, if we had taken all of them down? That was a difficult thing to do, but we did not do it just for heritage protection, but also for sustainability. We worked with the existing terrain and fabric to avoid waste, whenever possible. Carbon is one aspect of sustainability. The other aspect is resilience. As this is a waterfront project, you need to be mindful of the sea levels rising in near future due to climate change. So, we had large waterfront areas that we did not build anything new, except for updating the historical buildings there. We set the new structures further back on higher ground. The city authorities were also quite mindful of that. For that reason, you would see that most of the waterfront development has been reserved for social areas, rather than living units. The large waterfront areas became opportunities for great public spaces. Tersane Istanbul will also be a pedestrian-friendly place, where you would park your car and walk around to enjoy. Cutting down the use of cars helps with reducing carbon emissions.

Could you explain the “live, work and play” concept underlying your design?

This concept is at the very core of our lives today, mostly due to sustainability again. During the pre-war period, urban areas were subdivided into industrial and residential zones. The environment in the cities was very bad for living. The city was a place of poor health, as many people lived together. The people have even created “garden cities” in Europe and England, so that they could live in a healthy atmosphere. After World War II, there was a huge modern movement in the 60s and 70s, where everything was being questioned. People started to want to live, work and play at the same place, without having to travel to work, sit in the traffic for two hours and burn fossil fuels unnecessarily. So, having a live- work-play environment increases your quality of life. Tersane Istanbul will be like a village with many perspectives. You would feel like entering a city within the city. I think this is also going to be the root of its appeal in the hearts and minds of people to come.

Get in touch

Name and surname