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Commemorating Mimar Sinan, Üsküdar, Turkey

In February 2021, we took part in the competition “Commemorating Mimar Sinan in Üsküdar”, Turkey. Our proposal preserved the memory of Sinan by a solemn act of creating a building –Sinan’a Hoşgeldiniz – and promoted our respect for the man and his legacy through the World Sinan Symposium held annually inside it.

Sited equidistant from two of Sinan’s historic mosques, and tangential to the axis between them and the bath house (also designed by Sinan), Sinan’a Hoşgeldiniz brings a sense of cohesion to the waterside promenade and the larger landscape of Üsküdar Square. The intention is to create a retreat detached from the surrounding urban chaos while creating a powerful contemporary expression imbued with history. This retreat offers weather protection, a place to contemplate, to gather, to discuss, to discover and reconnect with the drama of architecture.

The urban concept of Sinan’a Hoşgeldiniz is as an urban marker and publicly accessible memorial in the form of a stone frustum, enrobed internally by a double spiral ramp – suggestive of life’s cycle and of human DNA. The ramp offers visitors changing glimpses of the urban environment and Sinan’s two mosques through small apertures as they walk along the gently inclined surface alongside a timeline of Sinan’s life. They arrive at the publicly accessible domed roofscape from where there are spectacular framed views across the Bosphorus.  The frustum form reflects the purity of the circle and of infinity and suggests to the visitor’s imagination its virtual peak somewhere above them. The height and scale of the frustum mediates between those of the two mosques, while also responding to the urban ‘emptiness’ of the site. Sinan’a Hoşgeldiniz is surrounded by water, with stone crossings at the entrance and exit.

A single folded patterned Kufeki stone frustum (expressing compression and gravitas) inverts the expected wider base by placing the pointed end of the flat plane of the folded wall at ground level. This is to acknowledge Sinan’s favourite stone and his engineering ingenuity while giving the composition a contemporary feel. The inner space is 32m in diameter and 16m high and its 100m long perimeter is defined by a patterned filagree jali (expressing tension and levitas) composed of metal, wood and glass suspended from the roof ring beam. A shallow concave floor reflects the convex dome above, which in turn is supported by the ring beam on 12 columns. The columns support the vertical circulation ramps in the space between the jali and the folded wall. There are two overlapping spiral public ramps – one ascends to the sculpted roofscape, and the other, descends independently. Incidentally, this arrangement responds to a scenario requiring social distancing.

Competition site

Competition site

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