SUMMA, one of Turkey’s major international construction companies, purchased the practically derelict structure at the end of 2012, making a decision to move nearer the central CBD in Levent at the Seyrantepe junction of the ring road. Strangely, although it is very near the CBD, this location currently has a ‘no new building’ ban, pending a wider urban plan for the region; therefore, SUMMA’s only choice was to make earthquake-proofing additions to the building along with “maintenance” improvements, which are allowed under the regulations. This meant that for all intents and purposes we were allowed to think of the as a new building but with a predestined structural grid and floor-to-floor heights.
The client initially drew from ideas by a few architects organizing in effect an informal limited competition. Avci Architects’ approach was selected as that which best represented SUMMA’s vision of itself. It was clear from the outset that due to its “terraced” location, the project would be focused around a façade design. The building is also the most significant block on approach from the Maslak route in to the central CBD. Due to the terracing, the issue of “front,” “back,” and “side” became critical, and the most important element of the design becomes the north, which faces the noisy approach road.
From an environmental point of view, the north façade would require no shading for solar control; therefore, a totally transparent glass façade would be possible. The brief included a two-floor parking lot requirement using mechanical stack car systems on both the entrance level and the first floor, requiring higher ceiling heights. The floors need to remain open to the atmosphere, allowing natural airflow, but our approach was to differentiate this area in the composition without making it look like a parking lot. Thus the main entrance to the offices and the parking lot are placed at opposite ends, with a small café/shop unit in the middle to enliven the streetscape in front of the building. The main parking lot level is distinguished by a layering of large-scale louvers of corten steel, backed by a finer grain of anthracite-colored open aluminum vertical louvers, which provide a veil-like backdrop to the cars beyond. A thick metal-clad line that begins as a roof canopy/gateway wraps around the corten steel, forming a clear “base” to the composition. This element then becomes a terrace to the office level on the second floor.
However difficult it is to think only of the front façade of a building, in this instance it avoids being simply a thin skin by projecting to the furthest point that the existing building provides on the top floor. The skin is further articulated by pushing back the triangulated earthquake-strengthening bay in a recess that follows through to the second-floor terrace. The broad composition of the façade then becomes increasingly complex as we push the offices out again to their extreme above this terrace. A more obvious move to add to this complexity comes from the inside at the top part of the offices by differentiating the office of the CEO with a top-glazed conservatory that brings light deeper into the space at this point; therefore, what appeared to be an exercise in the manipulation of a thin skin becomes a more three-dimensional game of composition that begins to give substance to the building, an unexpected outcome given where we began. It is worth taking a look at this point of the original, existing building.
What has been driven by commercial and town-planning concerns has subsequently also satisfied our need to give a sustainable edge to this project. Building on “brown” sites instead of on green fields, and not only that but recycling a building that looked more than defunct is no mean feat in Istanbul.
On all other façades, a more modest skin is applied with an articulated render finish on insulation to bring the building up to energy standards. Eventually the adjacent buildings are likely to be built up to cover these end façades, although only when the construction ban is lifted. Meanwhile, the objective is to bring these façades to a level that is both economic and aesthetically satisfying.
The brief for the building was to place the headquarters of SUMMA on the top three floors, allowing for a degree of flexible expansion down the floors toward the ground as the company expands. Driven by the founder of the company, the lettable floors on levels three and five are sandwiched by an art gallery/workshop space, which will display up-and-coming artists and be a place of debate and discussion for Turkey’s fledgling art scene. All of these functions are accessed from a common ground-level lobby, which is clad in American walnut on the walls and gray Serpeggiante marble on the floors. The geometries of the lobby are a surprising shift from the rectilinear composition of the façade. The black dynamic form of the Corian reception desk element engaging with the undulating dark timber walls of the space is lit by similarly undulating strips of reflected light from the ceiling. SUMMA gives a clear message to the outside world: modern, dynamic, edgy, but nevertheless natural.
Office levels are a series of shared cellular open-plan spaces and directors’ offices, which are arranged to the north. The darker core is utilized for reception areas and meeting rooms. The selected range of furniture from Nurus’ U Too line is offset against glass interior walls with natural walnut timber paneling and anthracite gray glazing elements. The objective for the interiors was to avoid placing a flat, dropped, suspended ceiling throughout the spaces and to maximize the given ceiling heights. As a result, the ceiling heights in each space are separately maximized. Lighting is provided by indirect LED strips concealed within the ceilings, while suspended LED strip lights provide specific task lighting.
The façade of the building is given an inflection by the enforced addition of triangulated steel tubular load transfer sections through the central column bay in the façade of the building. This provides a counterpoint to the sometimes excessively enlarged earthquake-strengthened concrete columns, which are also often circularly encased when they are freestanding and part of an open space. The curtain walling solution is as minimal as possible in its conception, with large glass panels spanning the full height of each floor, and avoids dark spandrel panels. Each potential cellular space is provided with an operable window the full height of the space and which opens inward to allow fresh air into the space when required. These full-height openings are protected from the outside with vertical strips of stainless steel mesh, with LED lighting recessed within to further highlight these points at night, giving the building its final signature and adding to this section of the Maslak to Seyrantepe axis a curious inflection that makes the SUMMA HQ stand out as a unique edifice in the Istanbul skyline.