Olbia Social Centre, Antalya, Turkey
Completed in 1999
In 1997, the architect Cengiz Bektas gave a presentation and a lecture at the Akdeniz Üniversitesi in Antalya about the town's old city. The lecture helped to raise awareness among the university's staff that their campus lacked a coherent identity, and that communication among teachers and students suffered as a result. A year later the university commissioned the architect to design a new social centre to bind together the disparate elements of the campus.
Lying on the western fringes of Antalya, the main city on Turkey's central Mediterranean coast, the campus consists of scattered buildings in a variety of modern styles, bearing little relation to the old city and providing no sense of individual character. The concept of the new centre was based on the architect's belief that, for a sense of community to flourish, people from different disciplines must be able to meet informally in a common space, much like the Greek agora, the Roman forum or the Oriental bazaar, where "incidental" learning may occur. Accordingly, the complex is laid out like a traditional bazaar, with a series of buildings arranged around a central axis.
The pathway that forms this axis is divided by a water channel, which flows over gentle waterfalls from the highest point of the site, humidifying and cooling the surrounding spaces. In two places, the pathway widens to create outdoor focal points for various functions. The space to the north contains a large pool of still water, surrounded by an auditorium complex and restaurant. To the south, a small pit of stepped seats with a water fountain at its centre, overlooked by a clock tower, can be used for individual reflection or for interaction within small groups. Around this space are cafés and various shops. At other stages along the central walkway are rooms for student clubs, an exhibition area and a sports club.
Covering both sides of the path, curving, linear pergolas balance and integrate indoor and outdoor space. To the east, an open-air amphitheatre with seating for 1,200 people is used for performances and a wide range of social and cultural activities, not just by the students but also by the residents of Antalya, helping to integrate the campus into the community. A series of paths connects the main axis with the bus station, the student hostel, the rector's office and neighbouring university buildings, making the complex the hub and visual focus of the campus.
The architect allowed local workers and craftspeople to make use of their knowledge and methods during construction and also taught them some of the old techniques, reviving building traditions in the area. Like the traditional buildings of Antalya, the centre's predominantly one-storey buildings were constructed mainly from local stone, quarried from the site during excavation of the foundations and then rough-cut in situ and combined with reinforced-concrete beams to form load-bearing walls. The timber ceiling structures, which support roofs clad with traditional red ceramic tiles, borrow their materials and technique from Antalya's ancient shipbuilding industry, fostering pride in the region's history and achievements.
A number of trees existed on the site prior to building, and the design for the most part worked around and preserved them, while the architect added indigenous trees, shrubs and flowers to create an ever-changing environment. Areas of grass have also been introduced, as well as climbing plants around the pergolas, which, when mature, will provide shade during the summer.
The name "Olbia", which is an old word for city, was chosen by public vote, encapsulating the project's traditional and social qualities. Connecting the scattered buildings of the campus, bringing together teachers and students from different disciplines and metaphorically linking contemporary Turkey with its past, the project has met, and exceeded, its objectives.
This project has been given an Award for its intimate human scale, its function as a bridge between several architectural styles and geographic areas of an existing university campus, and its innovative fusion of contemporary architectural elements with local materials. In addition, the complex creates an attractive place where students and teachers can meet and exchange ideas. The spaces themselves meet and flow into one another with pleasant effect and a series of changing perspectives. The use of water and other symbolic, historical and cultural elements is remarkable - the more so because these references do not merely imitate but, instead, permit new connections to the past. The project's human, social and cultural elements provide examples of ways for today's architects to look deeper into their own cultures.
Eral Soner, Civil Engineer.
Baki Yapi Malzemeleri Insaat Sanayii ve Ticaret Ltd. Sti: Attila Türkoglu, Site Engineer
Cost: USD 728,000
Occupation: September 1999
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