Architecture and design, key figures in the relationship between Italy and Turkey in 19th and 20th century

The Italian presence in architecture and design in Turkey has a long history marked by the vibrancy of commercial contacts.  Dating back to Leonardo da Vinci’s infrastructural projects for Istanbul during the Renaissance, the relationship was especially lively in the 19th century when many Italian neo-classic architects were active in the Ottoman Empire either working for the Sultan or the commercial community of resident Europeans or the Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities of the city.  Architects such as Giulio Mongeri, Gaspare and Giuseppe Fossati, Raimondo d’Aranco, Delfo Seminati, Eduardo de Nari, Giacomo Leone, Salvatore Fleri and the  Istanbul born Giorgio Domenico and Ercole Stampa brothers were the most notable figures in a period of significant exchange.   With the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire this cultural relationship between Italy and Turkey diminished considerably in the 20th century. One can only point to the lone figure of Vietti Violi in his contribution to the fascist inspired Inönü Stadium in Dolmabahçe, Istanbul in the 1930s.
In the post-WWII period with the ascendancy of the Italian economy in the 1960s the relationship between Turkey and Italy became once again meaningful. The manufacturing basis of the great economic miracle of Italy had repercussions in Turkey with the activities of companies such as FIAT.  But more so there was significant cultural influence as a new generation of designers in Turkey looked to the tastes of figures such as Gio Ponti, Achille Castiglioni and Ettore Sottsass.  The magazine Domus was especially important as it became the basis of design for designers in Turkey in the 1960s to 1980s such as Azmi and Bediz Koz, Yildirim Kocaciklioglu and Aziz Sariyer. Starting from the 1980s the first generation of designers from Turkey started to be educated and gained professional work experience especially in Milan.  These included figures such as Defne Koz, Inci Mutlu, Sezgin Aksu and Derin Sariyer.  The commercial relationship that was the historical basis for Turkish and Italian cultural interchange in architecture and design became in recent times clearly defined by these shared tastes and economic realities.

BIO | Gökhan Karakuş was born in Nusaybin, Turkey, and studied architectural history and theory at the Columbia University and Vassar College in New York, USA. The author of the books “Turkish Touch in Design” (2007) and “Turkish Architecture Now” (2009), Karakus works as an architectural critic, theoretician and designer. His field of study is especially related to locality in design, modernism and architecture. He has contributed to publications like Wallpaper, ID, Detail Art Unlimited and Icon and is currently working as the editorial director of Natura magazine sponsored by IMIB, which focuses on stone architecture in today’s Eurasian region. Karakus was a nominator and reviewer for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and Mies van der Rohe Awards for European Architeture. He has taught architecture and design at Istanbul Technical University, Bilgi University and Politecnico di Milano. He is the currently director of the interactive and environmental design studio, E|medya, which provides design service to a wide range of clients in Turkey and internationally. He recently works on monographs of the Turkish designer Tanju Ozelgin, advanced design research on architectural strategies for buildings on squatter areas and the integration of medieval Islamic architecture’s mathematics with computer aided design.


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