In order to hear the story of the long process that the building of the Ataturk Cultural Center entailed we have decided to provide a summary from a speech made on January 5, 1981 by Dr. Hayati Tabanlioglu, Associate Professor of Architecture upon his departure from the Ministry of Public Works. 

“I started my professional life working for the Nafia Vekaleti Office of Building and Construction earning 53 liras per day. Before I was even assigned any duties there I saw that the preliminary design for the Istanbul Opera Building was being debated. I was interested, as this was my field of specialty. On May 29, 1946 when I was still a student the municipality had laid  the foundations for an opera house. This project was later turned over to the Ministry of Public Works to be redesigned and I, stirred by my store of knowledge about theater buildings, interjected my ideas. Adnan Kocaaslan immediately took me to see the head supervisor, Orhan Alsac, who called the head of the operations bureau Serbulent Bingol and Mithat Ilkray, the head of the statics bureau (our dear friend who is now deceased). They were interested in what I had to say and asked me to put my ideas in written and visual form. I responded in short order and that became the first step in my adventure with the Istanbul Opera building. An office was immediately set up in Istanbul called the “Office of Control and Management of the Opera Building Project” and I was made the head of this office. Both my assistant professorship and military duties were shelved for the time being. 

The frame of the building had been erected according to the city supported project, had been standing uncompleted for a long time, and had elicited criticism from the press.  My professor, Prof. Holzmeister, said that this frame was not suitable for a theater structure. I was therefore charged with evaluating this frame, coming up with a new program, reorganizing the design, and implementing the project. At first I was not fully aware that I was getting myself into a job that proved to be as difficult as interesting.  As an architect I was tremendously excited about having the chance to build a theater and did not worry exceedingly about fulfilling the task. It was probably my lack of experience that led me to so blithely accept total responsibility for the construction of such a huge building.

Budget problems caused long delays in construction, but the “Istanbul Palace of Culture” was finally ready to open its doors at the beginning of 1969. The construction was completed, but all arguments that, before it was opened, a management organization needed to be created to ensure sole and unified management of the cultural center went unheeded. Despite the fact that I voiced my concerns at every opportunity-both formally and informally-there was no action taken and my fears were, unfortunately, proved justified. During a performance that took place on November 27, 1970, the stage decorations were set afire by a projector. This fire caused great damage, utterly destroying the stage area and damaging much of the audience seating area. One of the greatest joys for any architect is to see his or her project brought to reality and being utilized. After such hard and painstaking labor, the sudden and utter destruction of this project which had required such a variety of perspectives through a simple act of mismanagement saddened me deeply. I was heartened, however, by the loud clamor for the building’s repair and return to service voiced by the public and by performers. We were again chosen by the Ministry of Public Works to assume the responsibility for this rebuilding.

Completed with such difficulty and over such a long period of time, today the building bears the scars of the intervening years and certain other events it has weathered. We stress here that this building requires a total renovation and much work to restore it to the state provided by the efforts of Associate Professor and Architect, Hayati Tabanlioglu.

Site Area : 27.691mē
Construction Area : 52.000mē
1956 - 1977 / istanbul