Work will soon begin on the 44-story Renaissance Tower in Istanbul, Turkey. The only thing authentically Turkish here is its zip code. Image via FXFOWLE
Located on the Asian side of Istanbul at 606-feet, which is taller than most of its skyline neighbors, this “chiseled obelisk” of an office block is meant to highlight an eastern entry to this remarkable city.
What it highlights instead is a worrying trend wherein new projects earn sustainable street cred while divorcing themselves from the context of their specific sites and cultures, and where developers have opportunities to radically green up the whole building lifecycle in a legitimately newsworthy way but choose to take a pass.
This particular highrise is New York-based FXFOWLE’s first project in Turkey. Principal Architect Dan Kaplan says, “The geometric shapes of Islamic architecture and the morphemic forms of Cappadocia inspired the design.”
He continues, “Our strong desire to do something ‘Turkish’ supported the chiseled, tapering form. We wanted to make something that was part of the place.”
Kaplan says his work strives to “reduce horizontal entrophy”.
As an architect, I should understand the overblown language of our trade. Have we always sounded so ridiculous? Okay, so I’m treading snarky waters. And he’s probably a real stand-up guy. But the only thing ‘Turkish’ about this new tower is its zip code.
And what about sustainability?
Designed to achieve LEED silver certification, it boasts greywater recycling, interior daylighting and an air-distribution system that allows occupants to control individual thermal comfort.
Draw a building as thin as Kate Moss. Skew a few angles. Slap on some bits that scream Hipster Design like faceted glass skin (takes a river to clean), decorative lighting (disturbs the night sky), and maybe plop on a needle antenna (some record-grabbing height).
Snag some free press by claiming easy-peasy green points like “access to transportation” and “use of materials with high recycled content” (cheat alert! basic ingredients in all skyscrapers are inherently green in this regard: steel, concrete, zinc, glass can be made from recycled materials, and recycled again).
Does this lazy approach to large-scale urban development really reflect the top of our creative game? With vanished financing keeping so many jobs on the drawing boards, isn’t it imperative that we press for cutting-edge excellence in those projects actually getting built?
I see more design diversity in my 12 years of plaid Catholic School uniforms than in today’s modern high rises. Their scale alone makes for monstrous environmental impact that no amount of flourescent lightbulbs or FSC-certified wood can mitigate.
Energy modelling may prove them to be more efficient than older giants of equal size, but that doesn’t make them environmentally applaudable. It’s like me wanting a prize for being the skinniest fat lady I know.
File this rant in the chunky folder named Missed Opportunities. Regrettably, the 13 million people of Istanbul are unlikely to consider this addition to their skyline a true Turkish Delight.