Renzo Piano wraps Istanbul Modern in facade “evocative of fish scales”

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Italian architecture studio Renzo Piano Building Workshop has completed the landmark Istanbul Modern museum, which is its first project in Turkey.

Over 10,000 square metres in size, Istanbul Modern is an art museum on Karaköy waterfront, a historic area in Istanbul where the Bosphorus and Golden Horn waterways meet.

It has a top-heavy form made up of three stacked rectilinear volumes, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop to evoke the shape of a ship.

Aluminium panels with an almost iridescent quality envelop the building and subtly reflect the colours of the changing sky and light.

Renzo Piano has completed Istanbul Modern

The studio explained that the aluminium panels were chosen for their reflective qualities, drawing on the glittering and light-reflective nature of the nearby Bosphorus waterway and fish scales.

“Echoing the history of a site that has been used as a harbor for millennia, the outline of the building evokes ships of different sizes travelling back and forth between Europe and Asia as well as a creature of the sea that has leapt from the Bosphorus on the shore,” said Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

“The facade is made by a sequence of 3D-formed aluminum panels that play with the changing sunlight, creating a shimmering, iridescent envelope evocative of fish scales.”

It contains galleries for modern art

The ground floor of Istanbul Modern is fitted with expanses of glass to provide views of the waterfront promenade. It contains the museum’s library, a cafe, gift shop as well as education, exhibition and event spaces.

“The new building’s transparent and accessible design reflects the ethos of the museum: a multifaceted experience offering visitors audience-oriented exhibitions and programs inspired by the artistic diversity of the present day,” the studio said.


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On the first floor, galleries dedicated to photography sit alongside pop-up exhibitions, staff offices, a restaurant, terraces and additional event and education rooms.

Istanbul Modern’s permanent collections are contained on the second floor.

On the roof of the museum, a large terrace adjoins a reflective pool that is intended as an extension of the Bosphorus.

It has a large roof terrace

Elsewhere in Istanbul, Foster + Partners completed an Apple Store in the heart of the city that is characterised by two travertine stone walls.

Meanwhile, Turkish architecture studio Salon Alper Derinbogaz created a collection of “pandemic-resistant” offices for Yıldız Technical University.

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