Istanbul, with its ever-growing population currently standing at 14 million inhabitants, is one of the three most populous European cities. The other players in this league are London and Paris, with population densities half that of Istanbul. This is a crucial point to bear in mind whendiscussing the urban problems of Istanbul. Theextraordinary topography and the Bosporus dividingthe city into two halves are the main featuresmaking Istanbul a unique city; but they also createenormous difficulties in applying new urbantransportation systems. The tendency of the freemarket economy is to extend urbanisation on thesouth-north axis along the western side of theBosporus, but this is also a threat to the forestsand water reservoirs located to the north of Istanbul.The Metropolitan municipal council thereforetries to create a tendency for shifting the growthaxis to the East-West direction along the southcoast of Istanbul. The last invited competitions fordeveloping new sub-centres at the two ends of thisaxis were won by Zaha Hadid and Ken Yeang in 2006.However, the result of this decision is not yet visible.The new office buildings and shopping malls are stillbeing opened one after another in the northern businessdistrict of Istanbul, promoting urban developmentfurther in that direction.
Levent Kanyon is one of these recently-opened multi-functional buildings. It consists of a 26-storey office block, 179 deluxe flats and a large shopping mall with open-air circulation areas. What makes Kanyon unique is the open-air theme used for the shopping areas. Istanbul first encountered the large-scale shopping mall in 1988. Since then, 24 large-scale shopping malls have been built, some including office or residential blocks. These buildings became the new public spaces in Istanbul, a city which has very few real open-air public spaces. All of those buildings were designed in line with a very characteristic architectural style, accepted throughout the world for many years now. Most are large enclosed “boxes”, with shops lining the corridors or galleries However, Levent Kanyon did not follow these accepted spatial trends – in more ways than one – as it took a large investment risk as well. The main concept design of the 250,000m2 complex was created by Jerde Partnership, a large international architectural design firm with its headquarters in Los Angeles. Jerde collaborated with Tabanlioglu Architects, located in Istanbul, to elaborate the concept design.
The complex’s main core includes the shopping and entertainment area. The three-storey area has curling and winding open air galleries overlooking a central long winding courtyard. The entertainment facilities are housed inside a large sphere, part of which forms a large canopy over the main circulation area. The overall feeling of this space – almost an artificial topography – is very exciting, and it delivers a very unique experience for the Istanbul citizens who used to shop in box-like malls. However, before the opening, there was much speculation as to whether the open-air concept for such a public space would really work in Istanbul, as severe winter conditions and hot summer months have such an impact upon everyday life. In fact, shopping outdoors is not a new concept for most of the inhabitants of Istanbul. Even though most of the shopping activities are now directed towards the shopping malls, Istanbul citizens still like to walk around several districts where shops are rich in numbers as well as quality, such as Bagdat Street or the districts of Nisantasi or Beyoglu. Levent Kanyon was therefore soon accepted by the population of Istanbul and was visited by nearly two million people in its first four months.
Open-air shopping mall concepts are becoming more and more widespread around the world, since Levent Kanyon is not the only building of this type created by Jerde Partnership. Similar designs by this group can also be seen in Korea, China, Poland and the USA. A similar approach but a different architectural concept is also being realised on the Asian side of Istanbul for Meydan Shopping Mall, designed by the renowned British architects FOA. Shopping mall is a term that is actually being used less and less these days. As the lots located in the central districts of cities are becoming more and more expensive, the new buildings incorporate a mix of different functions, making them 24-hour-a-day buildings. The new trend is to mix the shopping facilities with entertainment, office and residential functions. Levent Kanyon is a good example of this new trend, which was actually initiated by another shopping mall, Akmerkez around 10 years ago in Istanbul. Even though the architectural quality of Akmerkez was rather unsatisfying, the multifunctional concept was very satisfying for the investors. Levent Kanyon is an exceptional example of the value of good design and a well thought out architectural concept that is an indirect but very important gain for the client.
Even though Levent Kanyon has been criticised for the potential consumption of huge amounts of energy to heat or cool its open-air shopping areas, it has actually been stated that the building uses less energy than a conventional enclosed shopping mall. Besides widely using passive climate control systems, the 26-storey office block – which has the largest surface area of all the buildings in the complex – has been finely designed so as to use less energy. The sunblinds on the south façade have a great impact, both functionally and aesthetically. The floor to ceiling office windows afford the office users exciting views of Istanbul. Landscaping both inside the shopping mall and on the roofs of the residential blocks blends the large-scale aspects and enhances the canyon effect created at the heart of the complex. The Levent Kanyon project uses CW 50 facade systems, CS 68 and CS 77 door and window systems with a total surface area of 22,000m2 of aluminium window framing and façade systems. The highest building of Levent Kanyon is an office block, with a total height of 150 metres. The building needed to be highly resistant to earthquake forces and thus makes use of a specially designed system based on the Reynaers façade system CW 86. The CW86 system makes it possible to position the modular façade applications with the classical frame structure (CW 86) and also it allows the manufacturing of the individual façade panels (CW 86-EF) in the workshop. Levent Kanyon can easily be accepted as one of the new public spaces of Istanbul; it is the result of a mixture of a radical design concept, high-tech materials, fine detailing, a clever retail policy and a bold investor.