Istanbul City Museum
Istanbul, Turkey
SALON - Alper Derinbogaz

Melis Ekizce Can | Cem Üstün | Egemen Onur Kaya | Thibault Jalby | Orçun Cavit Alp | Sinan Azizagaoglu | Cansu Altıntaş | Şevki Topçu | Ecem Çınar | Daniele Ronca | Orçun Girgin | Luca Molinari Studio – Scenography | Praxis Landscape – Landscape Design | Balkar Construction – Structural Engineering | Hb Teknik – Electrical Engineering | Çilingiroğlu Engineering – Mechanical Engineering | New Tecnic – Façade Engineering | Atlv – Parametric Design Consultancy | Laterna Partners – BIM Consultancy | Sld Studio – Lighting Design | Pompaa – Orientation Design | Bilgi 2000 – Geotechnical Drilling and Reporting | İTÜ- Fire Engineering | Erimco – Infrastructure Engineering | PY Uluslararası Danışmanlık A.Ş. – Project Management | Istanbul Technical University – Acoustic Consultancy | Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University – Museum Management Consultancy | Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University – Conservation and Restoration Consultancy

Covered Area

Istanbul City Museum, to be established by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, will tell the 8.000 years old story of the city in different perspectives to the citizens and the guests. The museum is designed as a centre of attraction reflecting the past, the present as well as the future situations of the city.

It has been a challenging work to design the museum of a city which has a long history that goes back until the  7th century BC. This challenge is multiplied by the location of the project site next to the historical walls, and by  a vast inventory list to incorporate into  the museum narration. The Museum of Istanbul is a longtime dream  project, on the agenda of the city during the last couple of decades. During this time several attempts had failed  but finally our project was approved by the Culture and Heritage Conservation Board in 2015. The architectural  design has been conducted in parallel to historical archive studies by the curatorial team, scientific consultants  and researchers, and finally the construction started in 2016.

‘Real museums are places where Time is transformed into Space.’, Orhan Pamuk


The site is adjacent to the Gate of St. Romanus of the Theodosian City Walls from the fifth century which has been a strong representation of the multi layered history of the city. The walls evolved together with the name of the city Byzantion, Konstantinopolis, Konstantiniyye, İstanbul. We can read how different societies had used the wall collectively by restoring , repairing and extending the masonry work. These important traces guided the elaboration of the architectural project.
As the urban settlement expanded, the walls became part of the center rather than being the borders of the city. The Theodosian Walls has also became one of the city’s must see routes for the travelers since 17th Century. In this context we proposed the museum as a node that integrates this route together with the modern transportation hubs of today which also played an important role in the transfiguration of the building.

İstanbul City Museum, İstanbul Kent Müzesi

Floor 1 Plan

İstanbul City Museum


As an architectural archetype, museum is a contradictory type of structure. Maybe its charm exists from here. The museum is first of all a public building that must be open to everyone and welcoming. On the other hand, it is a type of structure that should develop concentration for its visitors. In other words, it is a typology that must be introverted to focus on the content or activity exhibited within and at the same time it has a strong presence which comes from the scale.
The building gives the impression of being carved out of a solid mass and has a low height that communicates with the historic city walls nearby. Mainly formed by the rotation to relate to the route that follows the land walls and the transportation hub, the structure is split by a pedestrian bridge to connect to the topographical condition of the site.
The museum’s first floor, in which the permanent exhibition halls are located, hovers above the ground floor with wide cantilevered canopies, allowing the main mass to break off from the ground . The transparent ground floor is organized by all the public functions including a city library, a temporary exhibition zone, a lecture hall, cafes, restaurants and a kids atelier which open to the park through the Museum Square. Three floor slabs underground house laboratories, service zones, storages, ateliers and parking.

İstanbul City Museum, İstanbul Kent Müzesi
İstanbul City Museum, İstanbul Kent Müzesi

Living Museum

The courtyard in the middle of the structure plays an important role as one of the main elements of the circulation both for the open-air exhibitions and for a vibrant museum environment. The museum, which interprets Istanbul’s history as a spiral story, embraces the circulation around the courtyard, taking visitors to a long journey starting with a permanent exhibition. The courtyard, an important spatial element in shaping the morphology of the building, is planned as a resting and meeting place where visitors can meet culture and history enthusiasts and digest the museum experience.

The 38,000 square meters Istanbul City Museum is planned not only as an inventory museum but also as a living and contributing building to the urban life, with its permanent exhibition spaces, library, children’s workshop, showroom, activity areas, restaurants, cafes and a temporary exhibition hall. These functions, which are located on the ground floor where daylight penetrates the interior spaces thanks to the courtyard, support the permanent exhibition halls and turn the museum building into a complex where visitors can spend the whole day. Amongst these functions arranged for visitors, a comprehensive conservation and restoration laboratory, museum offices and similar infrastructure to serve museology is incorporated into the building of İstanbul City Museum.

In addition to the supporting functions on the ground and basement floors, major permanent exhibition halls located on the first floor of the monolithic mass will share the phases that Istanbul has witnessed throughout history, with a focus on the everyday life of the citizens.

İstanbul City Museum, İstanbul Kent Müzesi


Reinforced concrete system is used for areas under the ground level and in the cores whereas steel floor slabs and concrete cores hybrid system is preferred on the floors above the ground level to enable wide spaces with fewer columns. Thanks to this hybrid system, the height of the structure could be limited, the carcass sections were kept delicate and the exhibition spaces could be enlarged. Interior spaces and exhibition spaces were planned in coordination by the modulation of the structural system , glass facade , ensuring the integrity of the structure and spatial arrangement . Ventilation, heating and lighting systems were distributed to the interior spaces with the same modulation. The structural steel system was planned in accordance with the interior partitions that in most of the spaces were used without cladding and coating.


The monolith that houses the museum floor is developed from the alignment of the entrance axis and the visitor route movement inside the exhibition. The modulation of the façade panels reinforces this mass formation. The panelization details correlate with the traces of the different eras on the masonry work of the Land Walls.
The façade is composed of anodized metal and glass. The massive building, around one hundred meters long, is covered in metal to create a continuous transformation effect in different weather conditions at different times of the day with the reflections of the surrounding landscape and the sky .
The ground floor façade, under the massive metal structure, is designed entirely of glass . The elevated cantilevered mass serves both as eaves that protect visitors from the rain and as a shadow element. Thus, it became possible to detach the main volume from the ground while maintaining the transparency and connectivity of the ground floor to the City Park and the Museum Square.


The building is located in an existing underused park. Praxis Landscape undertook the concept of the landscape project by creating a scenario that links the museum circulation to the existing park. It was a joint decision by the architectural and landscaping team that the museum plaza is to be an attraction point extending to the park and bringing together both the museum and the park visitors.

The perspectives of the visitors approaching from two separate entry points and traces of the building’s projection define the main layout of the plaza. Open spaces inside the museum, courtyards and terraces were designed with reference to the unique elements of Istanbul landscape.


As Orhan Pamuk states the museum is almost the time itself and the time is not only linear or directional . The curation of the inventory in thematic and chronological sections played a decisive role in the organization of the museum floor. The museum’s narration is composed by seven thematic sections that generate a chronological path through the different era. Each section proposes a different scenario with changing characteristics in the exhibition method and display design. The visitor is guided in a cyclic path moving throughout the building until the main ramp that connects to the enclosed courtyard , a corner to rest, to remember and to gather.

Permanent exhibition halls located on the ground floor are organized in eight categories: “From the Sea to the City”, “Geography and Symbols,” “Urban Landscape of Istanbul”, “Society”, “Constructions”, “Life of Places and Institutions”, “Istanbul, XXth century” and “The Landscape of Istanbul”. These halls provide a comprehensive understanding on Istanbul throughout history, while the lower floor houses temporary exhibition hall, library and café-restaurant, all of which benefit daylight through the openings facing the courtyard. This part of the museum supports the permanent exhibition areas and transforms the museum into a new attraction point where visitors can spend their whole day enjoying the exhibitions.

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