Hillier New York looks to Gotham for the interiors of Turkiye Is Bankasi's Istanbul headquarters.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 5/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Turkiye is Bankasi A.S., a Turkish bank whose headquarters recently moved from Ankara to Istanbul, was founded by Kemal Atatürk in 1924, one year after winning his first of four consecutive presidential elections. The choice of relocation site was no coincidence. For Istanbul is situated partly in Europe and partly in Asia. Yet the Turkish Republic, more so now than ever, ideologically and socioeconomically considers itself far closer to the western continent and, by extension, to the United States. Hence right from the start, the bank's principals agreed that present-day modernism, rather than history-infused nostalgia, was to be the new installation's pervasive theme. As for a precise source of inspiration, consensus had it that this could be found among contemporary banks in Manhattan. Swanke Hayden & Connell was vetted and engaged to take charge of the building architecture. Whereupon hearing about the project, Hillier New York (HNY) went into action, putting together a comprehensive presentation and flying to Istanbul to make a pitch for the job of interior design. The commission went to HNY in the personae of president-marketing chief Gerard Geier, interior design director Barbara Zieve, and senior associate Metin Celik. Joining the subsequently formed team were Keat Tan, Michael Herbst, Joanna Ceglarska, and Ibi Yolas.
The 500,000-sq.-ft. property owned by Isbank (as the bank is informally known) consists of a seven-story "podium" building—three floors at and above ground, four below—supporting three towers. Banking facilities fill the 41-floor high-rise; the shorter pair is let to other firms. Primary areas in the low building are positioned so that the three-level banking hall and the gallery are anchored at street level; the cafeteria is one floor below, and the theater is one flight up. Among major entities in the tower are meeting places, executive offices, trading room, formal dining hall, and reception hall.
Plans for interior treatments evolved over the course of many meetings between the Hillier trio and the client team, the latter headed by liaison/chief-consultant Mustafa Su. Jointly they established design directions, first, however, embarking on a direct-exposure inspection tour of banking facilities in New York, this at the instigation of HNY. The aim was to bring to life and reality the designers' proposals, foremost among them the virtues of deploying high-quality millwork expressed, inter alia, by fine detailing, upholstered or demountable walls, sliding doors, and accessible ceiling systems. Also reviewed were subjects such as video/lighting technologies and inside applications of exterior materials, eventually resulting in there being 25 species of stone, mainly granites and marbles, and copious applications of stainless steel. Fine woods, recommended for their aesthetic appeal and suitability, consist of plain and ebonized anigrés plus sycamore. The combination of the utile and the beautiful added up to the "modern American aesthetic" sought by the client.
A pictorial rundown logically starts at the banking hall, a tri-level space seemingly topped with a large accordion-folded skylight. The overhead span is, in fact, the underside of a slabbed landing pad for the company helicopter; the faux-glazing is backlit perforated metal. Forty-two feet below is a multi-hued stone floor with triangular pattern, the geometric shape lifted from exterior detailing and reinterpreted inside. The hall's sweeping information desk is of curved stone and stainless steel; directly behind are work stations with freestanding acrylic partitions.
In the exhibition gallery, where the bank's private collection of 18th- and 19th-century artworks will be on view, under-lit glass boxes form pedestals for sculptures while stainless-steel walls uphold pictures. Located on a single tower level are seven meeting rooms, two waiting areas, and a library used also for informal get-togethers. The floor's 43-ft.-by-22-ft.-large conference center is an object lesson in how and why to produce different lighting effects, particularly for video showings utilizing rear-screen projectors.
Lectures and seminars as well as concerts and musical performances are held in the 800-seating theatre/auditorium, lined with Triffusers. The trade name identifies triple-facet posts surfaced with ribbed wood, fabric, and ordinary veneer per plane. Electronically controlled, the rotating poles are positioned so that the relevant side faces and enhances the sound of instruments or human voices. Then there is the trading room, which somehow manages to look more civilized if not elegant than do its typical counterparts elsewhere. There appears to be more breathing space and elbow room, and there's a nice underlay of carpet tiles. Outstanding in the cafeteria is the astonishing variety of seating arrangements: there are configurations for small, medium, and large groups; raised banquettes and bar seating; tables and chairs for formal affairs, fast-food occasions, et al. Wheel-shaped in its entirety and in its numerous parts, the 800-accommodating room is topped with anigré fins suggesting spokes that stop short of the hub.
But the pièce de résistance is the top-floor reception hall, justly compared to a cathedral by designer Zieve. Intended mainly for VIP entertaining, the 30-ft.-high, 7,700-sq.-ft. arena looks west toward Thrace and east to Anatolia, and presents an arresting composition of architectural elements inside. Running across the vaulted ceiling are tapering ribs emanating from either side and meeting at the perpendicular light-studded centerline. Support columns seemingly lashed to leaning and grooved offshoots, elevator doors, and screens fronting giant supply air diffusers are of stainless steel. Underlying this vast magnificent tableau is a carpet custom-woven, as a single piece, in Singapore.
Summing up, one cannot help but wonder: Shouldn't New York banks be looking to Istanbul for design inspiration?
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