Istanbul hosts iconic, reconstructed AKM cultural center

The Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) reopened to the public on Friday evening after two years of reconstruction work as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially inaugurated the center on the occasion of the 98th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey.

“We are striving to repay our debt to the founders of our republic by setting our goals for 2023 and working day and night to achieve them,” he said.

“We will not let any obstacle, trap or attack prevent us from achieving the objectives we have set for the 100th anniversary of our Republic,” he added.

All artistic and cultural activities of the center will contribute to a great and powerful Turkey, the president said.

“The Atatürk Cultural Center will remain for centuries the place where the pulse of culture and art beats in our country,” he said.

“The capacity of the hall we are in now is 2,000 people,” ErdoÄŸan also added.

“We have built a monumental cultural center in the heart of Istanbul.”

ErdoÄŸan praised the Sinan Opera, specially composed for the inauguration, on the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan whose ingenious works dot the territory of the old empire, especially in Istanbul.

Replacing an older building, the Istanbul venue is a new landmark for the city, which is the heart of the country’s cultural scene.

Friday was specifically chosen for the reopening as it is the 98th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. The center, named after the founder of the republic, is located in Taksim Square, one of the most famous places in the country’s most populous city.

Before its demolition in 2018, the center mainly served as an opera house. The new building, whose construction began in 2019, has a new 2,500-seat opera house as well as a cinema, libraries, cafes and restaurants.

A view of the opera auditorium, Istanbul, Turkey, October 28, 2021 (DHA PHOTO)

Located in one of the busiest places in the city, it overlooks Gezi Park and an adjacent square with its splendid glass facade. Although it looks like itself – designed by its architect’s father Murat TabanlıoÄŸlu – the building has spectacular new features, including a spherical auditorium tinted in dark red and made up of thousands of handmade ceramic tiles. The center was originally built in 1969 but was damaged by fire the following year. Seven years later, it was reopened after renovations. For decades, it hosted cultural and artistic events before falling into disrepair in 2008.

The new building covers an enclosed space of 96,000 square meters (1.03 million square feet) and consists of five blocks. The total cost of the project was around $ 208 million (TL 2 billion).

An exterior view of a spherical auditorium inside the center, in Istanbul, Turkey, October 28, 2021. (AA PHOTO)

Speaking to reporters on Thursday as he guided a tour of the new building, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said reconstruction was a necessity for the building, which faced serious structural problems . “We inherited a heritage and wanted to carry it into the future,” he said.

Although the splendid opera house is the building’s highlight, the center will serve as a cultural hub, Ersoy said, noting the libraries’ new additions to exhibition halls, as well as a 100-seat cinema and a children’s arts center. A 480 square meter multipurpose hall will also host exhibitions, concerts and conferences at the center.

The Istanbul branches of the ministry of a theater, opera and ballet company, choirs and symphony orchestras will also have offices and workshops inside the center. “Sinan”, an opera about the eponymous Ottoman architect, will be the first work to be performed at the center. Famous tenor Murat Karahan, who is also the head of the State Opera and Ballet General Directorate, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday that they were delighted to have a new opera house, “Which can be among the top 10 operas in the world.”

“We will find a center of beauty with its acoustic structure, technological infrastructure and capacity. As members of the State Opera and Ballet, an institution that will use this center the most, we are very excited and look forward to presenting special works of both arts, ”he said.

Karahan said that after “Sinan” they would welcome Verdi’s “Aïda” on November 7 and 8 and a ballet performance of “Sleeping Beauty” on November 11. “We will also welcome foreign artists here and spectacular productions,” Karahan added. He also said they were planning to invite “a renowned choreographer” from the Bolshoi Ballet for a production of the ballet “Swan Lake”.

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