GAD Architects shifts into high gear with its design for BMW's Boxer Café in Istanbul.
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 11/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Gökhan Avcioxglu, principal of GAD Architects, follows a guiding principle: "Less aesthetics, more ethics." But make no mistake: although sustainability, prefabrication, and cost-effectiveness are central to the Istanbul designer's work, his portfolio offers ample evidence that conscientious design need not forego aesthetic consideration.
GAD Architects' scheme for the interiors of the Boxer Café, a restaurant/bar in Istanbul, marry the praxis and poetics of "ethical" design. The firm was hired to convert the unused second floor of a BMW motorcycle dealership into a lounge where current and potential bike owners could mingle informally. But rough-and-tumble biker-bar wasn't the look they were going for. "This is not a café for people who wear black leather jackets and park their motorcycles in front," insists Avcioxglu, "but a dynamic, lively place to enjoy good food and drinks."
Avcioxglu describes the 2,700-sq.-ft. café as "a laboratory of design" in which he investigated "light and lightness," maximizing the potential of natural and artificial illumination and minimizing the palette of details and materials deployed. Expansive windows overlooking the Bosphorus flood the bright, airy interior with ample daylight while colored fluorescent tubes provide punchy accents. A raised lounge featuring low sofas and ottomans by Turkish designer Aziz Sariyer wraps around the dining area, which is populated by classic Eames tables (with custom walnut tops) and wire chairs. Racy colors and metallic finishes used throughout recall the sleek motorcycles below, while a glass window in the floor offers a bird's-eye view of the ground-level activities. With the exception of a single lemon-yellow wall, surfaces were polyurethaned in a glossy white hue, a treatment that reduces the visual clutter of the many structural columns and directs attention toward the seascape view.
The architect made use of durable, low-cost, and reusable materials, many chosen for their flame-retardant capabilities and energy efficiency. Avcioxglu fabricated the bar from a stack of hollow, uncut aluminum box profiles. Transparent Lexan, a sturdy plastic with a high degree of light transmittance, forms the partition between the dining room and kitchen. Its rippled surface is animated by rows of fluorescent lights in different hues, an effect that Avcioxglu likens to "an imageless billboard." The eye-catching combination of unexpected materials and treatments throughout was also designed to be easily dismantled and moved to a new location if needed.
Avcioxglu aspires to inaugurate "a new design approach founded on realistic economics and ecological environments." It is the responsibility of all designers, he believes, "to add global, contemporary, urban, and ecological points of view to the clients' list of personal needs. Taking new steps, gaining new knowledge, and learning new approaches about these subjects with our clients brings us great joy." Such collaborations can ultimately save money as well: "These considerations may suggest expensive building techniques, but they pay off when it comes to operating costs," he asserts. Budgets can be further trimmed by packing "more volume and function in less square footage." The Boxer Café, for instance, was completed for a modest $150,000.
Honoring the past—particularly Turkey's bounty of ancient architecture—is just as imperative to Avcioxglu as ensuring an environmentally sound future. "Istanbul is a city full of minarets, the world's tallest, thinnest buildings. Still standing against gravity and corrosion"—as well as 1999's devastating earthquake—"they form my courage," says Avcioxglu. Much of GAD Architecture's work explores a dialectic of old and new through the adaptive reuse of historic structures. One of the firm's first commissions was to design an administrative annex that would breathe new life into an aging factory complex. The new steel-and-glass building creates a pleasing contrast with the original precast concrete buildings and the surrounding landscape of metal pipes, bridges, and silos. For an event space in Istanbul, GAD Architects revivified a fire-damaged, 18th-century brick building by inserting a "crystalline structure"—a modern glass box—within the masonry shell. "The existing brick walls protect the transparent glass interior from the effects of sun, rain, and wind. From the outside, you hardly notice that there is a real building inside."
Despite his attention to the practical considerations of reducing costs, materials, and environmental damage, Avcioxglu never loses sight of his loftier goal. "Architecture is a continuous struggle to add something to the world, going beyond the basic requirements of shelter to provide for a complex set of human functions."