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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Salt Research Center in Istanbul, Turkey by S A N A L architecture|urbanism

January 31st, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: S A N A L  architecture|urbanism

The SALT research center was envisioned as a public tool and a vehicle to research, exchange, engage, and create content. The uniqueness of the historic building and the spatial volume of the Avlu was something to behold and therefore our design approach pursued both in a dialogue. Underpinning the material and formal choices of the design is the building’s eclecticism style of the late 19th Century, the other designer’s approaches to create the building’s contemporary character, and to co-locate with the Beyoglu building. ‘Socially engaging’ to the diversity of potential users and visitors was the spatial organization brief given in by the user group.

View of mini cinema exterior (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)

  • Architect: S A N A L  architecture|urbanism
  • Project Name: Salt Research Center
  • Location: Karaköy, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Photographer: Refik Anadol
  • Sketches: Murat Şanal
  • Use: Library/culture/multi-media production
  • Software used:
      AutoCAD 2011 LT: General design coordination
      Sketch-up basic: Geometric massing studies + coordination
      LocAware: Sound sampling — a custom software to sample sound color and movement that we designed in 2006 with IKON
      Rhino: for mini cinema 1:1 virtual mock-up
      Adobe Illustrator + Photoshop: Fabric design + rare book text graphic
      Microsoft PPT: for user group workshops

View of artist archive from above (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)

  • Gross Floor Area: 600 m2
  • Structure: Historic 19th Century Load Bearing + Timber
  • Architects: Murat Şanal, Alexis Şanal, Begum Öner
  • Project Team: Orkun Beydağı, Pillippa Tamsin, Sedef Zorbozan
  • Complete year: 2011
  • Client: SALT
  • Project Management: Garanti
  • General Contractor: PROMIN
  • Furniture: Karre, Derin, Ersa, Herman Miller by BMS
  • Visaulization: Mimaj
  • Models: Atölye K

View of mini cinema detail (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)

Our response was to create a field of stacks with familiar reading and research points around the perimeter and then define 8 distinct settings — each to suggest different alternatives for engagement.  And, last was to ‘put-on-show’ the essentials of the institute’s unique collection and services. These ‘essentials’ are arranged to define a new porous edge to the Avlu: the rare book case, the artist archive, the newness, the front desk and search stations. And not least, is the notion of inclusiveness; each piece of furniture was specifically selected to tell a tradition of the hand-manufactured craft of Istanbul pioneering designers in the last generations as well as certain performance qualities of furniture manufacturing not yet achieved locally.

View of mini cinema interior (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)

As signature to all our works, the process began with a series of intense workshops with the librarians, the cultural center’s content team and representatives from the restoration design and coordination team. The workshops, 5 in a series, framed the specificity of the environmental concept, expectations and spatial program. The result described the ambience> see who’s there finding my collection blog/announce/proclaim influence activities learn from being w/ others Vote for a shared future Play enjoy, participate, engage, create, influence, dance….have fun….learn, find, be an integral part of place-making and the experience> collection as whole ‘unfolding’ / ‘layering’,  orientation to world, Blending city, garden, lobby, avlu, Istiklal, ‘from above’, continuous flows light, air, people, content, views,  sight-lines near, far, whole, framed, focused sharing announce, receive, exchange.


View of poofpuf projection seating (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)

The approach is a place that is as much about the whole as it is about the individual parts — parts that can change, be added or fade-out — but which as a whole has a presence of ‘being there’. Unique in our contribution is the notion of narratives and those that create the ‘sense’ of place.  Our design narratives are most clearly articulated in the 3 distinct objects. Each object acts as tactile story tellers in a conversation with the others. One is of sound and texture (poofpuf), One is of light and aperture (cinema4two), and One is of geometric construction and scale (artist archive).  Each are also placed to entice those beyond the boundaries of the research center, indoor and outdoor, to come in and see what is there. Each attempts to transcend plywood’s inherent nature, and yet simply express the elegance of such an ordinary material. The second uniting narrative is found in the upholstery designed for the space. Specifically, it is the view ‘from above’ in the Galata oval window of Perşembe Pazari and the historic peninsula. The connection back to the city and the experience of the research center from the upper avlu floors was always considered. We hope more stories will come, the walls host the institutes mission, the events of SALT in its nascent months of operation, the portal to events, the online catalogues, and a blank black wall to tell more.


View from entry rarebook artist archive (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)


The poofpuf carves the surface of the plywood from sampling of sound on Istiklal Cadessi in 2007, but also expresses the ornate history of decorative patterning referring to nature found throughout the Galata district. The cinema4two is shaped and sculpted to the movements of the sun as it peeps only slightly in winter and summer mornings through the core of the space. The angles reflect the light to give a the corner atmosphere and the apertures are position to the equinox and solstices. The image itself is of our bodies use of the hand to frame. And, the artist archive is created from the circle geometry Alexandre Vallaury used to create the decorative Corinthian capitals of the avlu, scaled +/-4x. The geometry was further crafted so from the library the visual priority is the artist archive collection, but when seen from above the visual priority is the volume’s shared geometry with the avlu. The choice to use plywood was to both to excite visitors of the endless possibilities still to be found in something as ordinary as plywood for ‘fine’ carpentry, but the narrative is about the three being active in the future potentials of what occurs in the exhibitions at SALT Beyoglu.


View of researcher work space at mezzanine (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)

One of our great accomplishments was the diversity of designers directly contributing into the library environment for their unique approaches from the 1950’s to today. Challenging to the designers was to think of their pieces in the specific context and social requirements of the research center, all of whom view performance criteria and human comfort not as ‘problems’ to be avoided, but as parameters in knowledge centric design. Sadi Öziş’s SUFI chairs face to the city; Aziz Sariyer’s TOT tables will host the primary research stations — with all their stuff; Derin Sariyer’s FLAT chairs animate the avlu — for reading, working, discussing; Superpool’s rippling workstations continue to support the ‘essential’s of SALT’s processing; and our library stack system design co-created with Ersa are some of the highlights. There is also the unique and very tactile information and graphic design approach of Ozgen Design for the navigation of the space and the library collection inspired also from the pattern material expressions of the historic setting. As part of the ambition to invite and subtly change the texture of the space the first visual design for the ‘discussion round’ is the digital works of Refik Anadol, yet to be executed. The lighting design and building restoration was outside our scope or persuade. Yet our aspiration is that many more great minds will contribute to the tactile experience of the space in the millennium ahead.


View to search and stacks (Images Courtesy Refik Anadol)



Aperture light

Geometry view

Site sound


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Categories: Autocad, Illustrator, Research Station, Rhino, SketchUp

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