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Kadikoy Municipality took a council decision to preserve the decorative elements in the buildings demolished within the scope of urban transformation. Thus, ceramic panels on the exterior and interior walls of hundreds of buildings will be saved. We talked to ceramic artist Assoc. Prof. Nurdan Arslan, who led this decision, a first in Turkey, about her efforts over the years.


Good news came from Kadikoy Municipality. You have been trying for years, can we hear the process from you?

Unfortunately, a few of the ceramic panels that I have archived as visual documents for classes for nearly 30 years as an academician and ceramic artist, were destroyed in the process of being demolished. When I witnessed the demolition of several houses in the neighborhood I lived in, I thought that I should take my work to a different dimension. In 2015, I applied to Kadikoy Municipality and stated that it would be possible to save most of the ceramic panels with technological facilities and that joint work should be done with the municipality-university and the Ministry of Culture. In this context, I continued my wish that the salvaged parts of the ceramic panels could be exhibited in parks and gardens, open-air and indoor museums through joint projects, and transferred to future generations as a cultural heritage. I applied to Kadikoy Municipality again in May 2022 and submitted a file. I hope that important steps will be taken within the scope of the joint project with the municipality in this context.

Fatma Batukan Belge - Nurdan Arslan

How did you become interested in ceramic panels in buildings?

My research on ceramic panels in the context of culture-memory started when I looked at the ceramic panel belonging to Ilgi Adalan at the entrance of the apartment where I lived. My interest increased even more when I came across ceramic panels while wandering around all the neighborhoods from Moda to Bostanci. When ceramics are considered as a cultural asset, there are many points we need to see. It creates memory stops, it belongs to the city, it has a place in our minds by seeing it since our childhood…

 Why were there so many ceramic panels made in architecture at one time?

The story of ceramic panels, which started in Kadikoy, Istanbul, especially after the Republic period, in the 1960s, is actually the story of other big cities such as Ankara and Izmir. An important development was made in the 1960s and 70s, when ceramic panels were applied in the modernist sense in Turkey. In parallel with academic ceramic art education, in architectural fields, especially in public spaces; there are many ceramic panels applied by artists and academics of the period in hospitals, universities, banks, cultural centers, shopping malls, social and private residences. City planning and the steps taken to bring our living spaces together with contemporary works of art, combined with the development of ceramic art education, have resulted in so many panels being made. During the urban construction process, we see the provision of using 10 percent of works of art in architecture in Kadikoy. Thus, architects included ceramics in buildings.

A bulding at Kadıkoy Jale Yilmabasar

It is actually very impressive that they use contemporary ceramics instead of traditional tiles…

Yes, I thought about this a lot too. The works of Fureya Koral, who is at the beginning of the process, are very pictorial, Ilgi Adalan is a sculptor, Atilla Galatali has wonderful panels. They all have a contemporary expression language. They used ceramics as a material, but ceramics actually includes everything: painting, sculpture, texture, color, structure... When I examined the artists, I witnessed that they made interdisciplinary applications. Ceramics is such a magical material that you can turn the material into a work of art by using your own language of expression. There is a process evolving from traditional to contemporary after the 60s. For example, Jale Yilmabasar's panels; she uses motifs from traditional folk culture and you see that she is influenced by Anatolian civilizations. Then she starts to abstract them very well.

Architects have a big role here…

Architects have a great impact on the meeting of architectural spaces with art. Like IMC's architects Dogan Tekeli, Sami Sisa, Metin Hepguler, AKM's architect Hayati Tabanlioglu... Like the architects of Anafartalar Bazaar... They really took very important steps. For example, Dogan Tekeli included the works of artists while building the Vakko building. Izmir Efes Hotel is also like a museum.

You are working to turn your archive work into a book, right?

There is a book I have been working on for ten years. I first started with Kadikoy, but then I wanted to include the panels made in the same years throughout Turkiye. Such as Anafartalar Bazaar in Ankara, Istanbul Drapers Bazaar (IMC)… But I also saw that many buildings in public areas were demolished.

 Atilla Galatali

Anafartalar Bazaar is an important example. Is the legal process continuing?

There are original panels applied by important ceramic artists of the period on all walls of Ulus Anafartalar Bazaar, which was built in 1963. The works of artists such as Fureyya Koral, Seniye Fenmen, Cevdet Altug, Atilla Galatali, have survived to the present day as a cultural heritage that forms the urban memory of Ankara for half a century. There are 27 unique ceramic panels running across three floors in the bazaar. Although the decision to demolish it was taken during the urban renewal process, its demolition was stopped by legal means in 2008, thus preserving Ankara's important historical memory. Ankara Metropolitan Municipality took it under protection. But it is said that the fate of at least 50-60 panels in Ankara is unknown. Sadi Diren also mentioned with sadness that many of his panels were destroyed before his death.

Fortunately, his panel at AKM was saved…

In 1965, Sadi Diren makes this panel at Eczacibasi Vitra Art Workshop, the first modular ceramic panel made in Turkey. For example, we see that Mustafa Tuncalp made modular panels in the 60s and 70s. Sadi Diren's is very important, when AKM is demolished in 2020, this panel is kept in the warehouse and is placed in the foyer in 2022. The Opera Hall sphere is also covered with inspiration from these modular ceramics.

Red Sphere…

Sadi Diren  

Yes, the 15 thousand ceramic tiles covering the outside of the sphere are made by female workers in Canakkale Seramik's factory. It is also very important that women workers are present there. It is very nice that the value given to art in the context of culture-memory is realized there. Our teacher Sadi Diren would be very happy if he were alive.

If you could give other examples from the artists who have produced the most in this field…

Let me tell you which one, so many of our valuable artists have panels in public spaces... For example, Mustafa Tuncalp; his panels at Ataturk Airport, Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport and TEK building, Canakkale Seramik's 30th Anniversary building... He is an artist who evolved from traditional to contemporary and was very influenced by Anatolian Civilizations. Tuzum Kizilcan has panels in many buildings, especially in Izmir, in Kusadası Hilton, in Pine Bay... Bingul Basarir is also an artist who produces in Izmir. There are works signed by Bingul Basarir Mustafa Tuncalp and Erdinc Bakla in Ankara Ari Studios. We witness Atilla Galatali doing amazing things in Ankara Gazi Army Corps. The building where Erdinc Bakla's panels was located in Kiziltoprak, Istanbul, was demolished in 2023. But the modular ceramic panel was properly dismantled and rescued. We frequently encounter the panels of Ilgi Adalan in many social housing buildings from Moda to Bostanci. It appears almost every kilometer. Some are on the facades of buildings, some are at the entrance. Kadikoy is a region that was planned as a new seating area in the 1960s, and Ilgi Adalan started making panels after establishing relationships with the architects in this region.

Fureya Koral Atilla Galatali Bingul Basarir Erdinc Bakla

You mentioned recovered boards. What happens to them afterwards?

The real crucial part of the story is here. The collapse of buildings in 2005 after the 1999 earthquake caused me to focus on my work. As an academician and ceramic artist, I felt very responsible for this and applied to Kadikoy Municipality, but I did not receive a positive response. When I happened to meet former Mayor Serdil Dara Odabasi, I explained the issue to him and he was very interested. You can write a book and document these panels as memory, but the main thing is to save them during the demolition stage and exhibit them, for example, in open-air museums or in areas indicated by the municipality. Maybe it can be placed at the entrance or garden of newly built buildings. That was my whole point. I made a presentation to the Municipality and explained their importance. The Department of Construction Affairs, which was established after the 1999 earthquake, is dealing with the issue. I am very glad that the decision of the Council was passed by the Municipality.

There has been a lot of construction going on lately, but no one thinks of using ceramic panels. I wonder why?

I think it's all about technology. It is about the suitability of developing and rapidly changing technology to its areas of use. Ceramic panels are not made, but products such as highly fired and large-sized porcelain tiles produced by Canakkale Seramik are used. When we look at new buildings, we see that they are covered with ceramic granite coating. Concerns such as its insulation function, water resistance, cracking, and cleanliness shape today's modern living spaces. This has also changed with the changing times.

Can we then say that saving the panels made in the past has gained more value?

Absolutely, because it is no longer produced. For example Huseyin Celik from Hacettepe is an artist who made many ceramic panels for architectural areas in the 2000s. There are some artists who continue the cultural legacy. But now the earthquake resistance of buildings has become the first priority. This means that we have to put these works of art in a very important place. Works made between 1960-80, belonging to a certain period.


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