A new Renaissance in Istanbul

01 Nov 2011

FXFOWLE Architects creates a fusion of cultural response and sustainability

The 36-storey Renaissance Tower is located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. Occupying an 'edge-city' context at the intersection of two major highways, the tower is completely freestanding and seen in the round. Functioning like an obelisk, it marks the end of long vistas and announces the entrance to the city from the east. A fusion of cultural response and sustainable concerns guided the design.

The chiseled massing takes cues from Ottoman geometric motifs and local landforms while responding to municipal envelope restrictions. The tower is rotated 33 degrees for optimum solar control as determined through insolation modeling. A stippled golden scrim, tuned to the solar orientation, further reduces heat load. Together, these enable the incorporation of floor-to-ceiling glass while simultaneously achieving ambitious energy efficiency goals. A marriage of performance and ornament, this second skin coveys the spirit and aura of 'The East'. Environmental emphasis is discernable in green spaces laced through the tower.

Three groupings of 'sky-gardens' are strategically placed at key exposures. These two-storey high gardens provide a thermal buffer between the exterior and interior, access to fresh air and a respite for office workers. A larger, exterior garden crowns the tower with a weave of planting and architectural elements, including a wood conference 'pod'. The base is outfitted with varied gardens: a water garden reflects the tower and sky, a step garden allows access the pavilion roof while a piazza provides a social focus.

Taken together these green spaces temper the insistent vertical stacking and hermetic environments so often found in high-rise design. The tower marries sculptural massing rooted in the locale, a solar responsive skin with allusions to Islamic tradition, and the incorporation of green spaces throughout. Rooted in the particular spirit of Istanbul, it offers an antidote to the universal application of conventions that has regrettably become the norm for many international practices.

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