An interview with Arc. Mehpare Evrenol on Mimarlar Workshop and projects

Akasya Acıbadem and Bosphorus City projects by Mimarlar Workshop  (Architects’ Workshop) under the directorship of Master Architect Mehpare Evrenol made it to the finals in this year’s MIPIM 2013 fair (the most prestigious real estate fair of the world), in which Turkey was recognized as the County of Honour. Mimarlar Workshop will represent Turkey in MIPIM 2013 fair where projects from all around the world will compete and which will take place in Cannes, France in March.

Mehpare Evrenol is the only Turkish architect that will compete in all categories with both projects.

We interviewed Master Architect Mehpare Evrenol on her approach to architecture, her projects, her opinions and her ideas for the future…

AOL: What projects did you design up to date? What kinds of projects do you draw?

M.E.: My husband Alp Evrenol and I established Mimarlar Workshop in 1990 to continue our work in a more institutionalized environment. For 10 years, we designed various projects like villa compounds, office buildings, headquarters, school buildings and hotels. By the end of 90s, the economical conditions in Turkey, construction investments, reconstruction conditions, and town planning structures began to change and so, the size of the projects grew. A 400 household project in the beginning of 2000 was our first big project and that was a number we cared a lot about. Today, our projects are on the range of 2000-5000 households. For the past 10 years, we began to work more and more as household project designers, I believe we have specialized in this area.

As you know, ‘architecture’ is a long-term area. Therefore, I can define what we have been working on for the past two years as what we are currently working on. We have been working on Akasya Acıbadem Project for the past 4 years. Recently we have finished “Kent Etabı” residance projects. It’s shaping up as an office, home-office and household project with its almost 40 stories of household floors on top of the Kent Etabı Shopping Mall, in the high building and its companion short building. The construction of our Ottomare project began. Although it is a high building, I think our project where the floor gardens meet with the interior freely due to folding joinery has used the layout plan beautifully. The first part of our big housing project in Antep has been completed. It’s been talked about a lot, but we are still preparing its architectural project and the project has many more phases. We are also working on a housing project named Altın Oran (Golden Ratio) using an innovative concept in Ankara. Our recently completed Bosphorus City and Kelebekia projects and still being built İstanbul Sarayları (İstanbul Palaces) project are similarly projects that are prepared with special to this country concepts and are investments that lead the themed projects concept. And there are projects that we don’t talk much about before their sales begin. We also have a big housing project for 2000 households in Bakırköy – Yeşilköy line that takes a lot of our time.

AOL: Where do you see the current Turkish architecture and what are your predictions for the future?

M.E.: Our past and approach to architecture is different. We are the children of a nomad society; we’re just settling down. With the population boom and expansion of the cities, I see we enlarge more like Far-Eastern cities. Developments in İstanbul looks like developments in Chinese cities. I see hundreds of years of long cultural values cease to exist due to destruction of traditions, the cities cannot carry this weight and even with architectural education or architectural formal studies, this cannot be stopped.

Developments in the recent years can be described as providing the city dwellers with new housing areas, singular efforts of investors and independent undertakings of local administrations – which keep the‘urban renewal’ concept always current and take decisions all by themselves. In truth, these singular efforts cause me to worry, because it is very hard to see the bigger picture. The goal should be planning whole of the city in the level of a master plan and creating projects that are integrated into this master plan. When this is not done, a life where city-wide functions are scattered, communications are broken, social areas are lost and the nature is more and more estranged waits the city dweller. Thus, the problem should not be handled as revitalizing a single area.

I think architecture in Turkey is just at the beginning of its development. We – architects in Turkey – work very hard in a system where zoning laws, regulations, social structure dynamics and the main rules change constantly. Still, I believe as per capita income increases, we will live in more quality environments and systems will stabilize.

AOL: Where do you see yourself in the contemporary Turkish architecture?

M.E.: I think what distinguishes our projects is that their placing, their layout plans are very special. This arises from our professional formation. Secondly, our efforts to create compounds that feel like that they just appeared as part of the city instead of creating uniform, following each other with their same facades, lost in each other, mass buildings where people live. As a result, we develop our projects with many different types of buildings. In one of our projects in Halkalı there are 24 different types of buildings; in our project in its neighboring parcel, there are 21 different types of buildings. We should also emphasize project owner Sinpaş Yapı’s visionary approach and support here, which we find invaluable. You cannot get these results with every firm there is. Landscaping and living style in the surroundings are very important. Since we cannot totally control the environment, we like to develop it in a very controlled way and we strive to create projects where the city dweller can spend his time happily, comfortably at home and unique not only with its sports, recreation areas, but also with its social areas and positioning of the households.

AOL: Does ‘being a woman’ add any details to your projects?

M.E.: Construction sector is a male dominant sector and there are disadvantages to working in this area as a woman, it is a hard adventure. I think being a woman might have brough some elegance to our housing project solutions, which we have specialized in the past few years. One should consider the user profile in the interior areas besides the design approach in master scale. I believe I observed the needs of women in establishing the order in a house and reflected these in my designs.

AOL: What should be the ‘basis’ in a house?

M.E.: A house is not only an area to meet the need for a shelter and should not be designed thus. We talked about our efforts to create a living environment. When you design houses with this approach, interior planning is pushed back into the second place. Being stuck in boxes which make you feel as a prisoner robs the house of its living place property. I think quality houses that are conditioned with the right technical equipment, have the right direction on the terrain, protect the private lives of its tennants and at the same time allows for socializing are correctly designed buildings.

AOL: In what kinds of projects do the Turkish people like to live?

M.E.: We are a society that likes to socialize, care about human relations and spend time in open areas. Housing compounds which have open areas where especially children can move around freely are chosen. Because we care about entertaining guests, interior areas like entrance, kitchen and living room are important both in size and location. Instead of the large bedroom, large bathroom, small living room and kitchen houses of Europe and America, our society chooses living rooms and kitchens that are fitter to entertain guests. One should think of these areas as the heart of the house and design them according to this.

AOL: In the MIPIM fair which will take place in March, you represent Turkey with 2 projects as the only woman Turkish architect. What are your thoughts on this? What do you think caused you to make it to the finals?

M.E.: In MIPIM – which is accepted as the most prestigous real estate fair of the world – we made it to the finals with Akasya Acıbadem and Bosphorus City. I am very happy to be in the same level with many world giants that proved their success internationally. And being there with 2 projects in 2 different categories is really making me proud. There is a large team involved in these projects besides Alp Evrenol and myself. Under the leadership of Tamer Tunbiş, Akasya; and under the leadership of Burak Karaca, Bosphorus City projects were prepared with teams of about 15 people each.

I think we succeeded due to creating projects that correctly studies human life, human happiness in city scale.

We thank founder of Workshop Mimarlık Ms. Mehpare Evrenol for her time and this pleasant interview.

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