Monthly Archives: January 2012

Waiting to meet with Seyhan from Autoban. I am enjoying their beautiful Nest Lounge Chair.

Autoban is an Internationally recognized Design Studio founded by Architect Seyhan Özdemir and Interior Designer Sefer Cağlar. Autoban offer inspiring spaces and moments to be discovered through their architectural and interior projects as well as product designs. While in Istanbul I got to hang out in some of the cafes they have designed; all kitted out with their considered and refined furniture.

Their multi-layered work stems from an experimental process that engages with concepts such as ‘creativity and knowledge, realism and imagination, function and culture’. I felt a deep connection to their work and their process. I was extremely fortunate to meet with Seyhan Özdemir in Autoban’s Istanbul office. A very special lady!


Aya Sofya external
Aya Sofya Wow
Byzantine Mosaics

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia in Greek) has many names reflecting the varied uses of the building and the history of Istanbul (Byzantine, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic). Visiting Aya Sofya was my favorite experience while in Istanbul. I was struck by the modesty of the interior compared to that of The Blue Mosque. It seemed deeper, darker and more reflective using a lot more natural stone patterns (marble and breccia) and raw materials along the vertical surfaces.

Natural stone walls
Natural stone floor

The more intricate Byzantine mosaics were isolated to the vaults and domes. Large medallions still hung within the vaulted space depicting the names of god (Allah). A small library built by Sultan Mahmut I was lined with intricate Iznik tiles and timber carvings.

Small Library interior with Iznik Tiles
Most of the Ottoman patterns within Aya Sofya were governed by the principles of geometry or used them in combination. There was no attempt to create an illusion of depth (they kept the picture plane flat) allowing the patterns to be intricately complex.
View underneath Minbar from side

The Minbar (or pulpit) for midday Friday Prayer (the main service of the week) used the highly geometric and 16 Point Star motifs assembled from carved elements of teak. Geometry was used within religious and non-religious contexts where the layout of the pattern and proportion of the motifs followed these principles.

Minbar side detail
I had such a strong personal feeling being there. When I was a child I would make découpage covered boxes with images cut from magazines. For one of these boxes I had cut out the medallions and mosaics of Aya Sofya. These memories flowed back to me as I entered Aya Sofya. I was overwhelmed to be in this place after all those years.
Because it is now a Museum I could stay in Aya Sofya for as long I wished. I returned on several occasions: when it was raining; in the late afternoon and on a bright sunny day when light streamed through stained glass windows and illuminated all of its surfaces and materials.
Istanbul cats at home

I have always been a ‘dog person’ I guess because growing up in the bush we had dogs for company, work and protection. Only recently have I formed a bond with cats (mainly through a certain cat named TK). While in Istanbul I found a variety of cats everywhere, each with their own character. Along with keeping the streets free of rats and mice they have a special place within folklore as well as belief in Istanbul.

Moshi Moshi spies two Toms sitting on a car bonnet outside 

More than a year ago a special cat had decided to adopt my host Arda. When i arrived, the cat was heavily pregnant and looked like a mini Holstein Cow. She still didn’t have a name. We named her Moshi Moshi and I spent many nights comforted by her warm purr and special motherly company.

Moshi Moshi in all her glory

Before I left Istanbul Moshi Moshi started to look for a hiding spot to give birth. By the time I arrived home in Australia, she had given birth to two healthy kittens in one of Arda’s handbags!

Cheeky Moshi Moshi!


SALT Main Gallery Space/Foyer

SALT is a non-profit Institution located in Istanbul. It has Exhibition spaces, Forum, Cinema, Café, Shop and Garden within its Beyoğlu headquarters that opened in early 2011.

It’s aim is to explore issues in visual and material culture within art, design, architecture and urbanism and cultivate innovative programs for research and experimental thinking. It has become widely recognized as a site for critical debate through its public programmes.

Walk in Cinema
Looking Back Towards the Entry
Beyoğlu main mall beyond

Previously an apartment building, the redesign for contemporary use was completed by Mimarlar Tasarım, the office of Aga Khan Award for Architecture winner Han Tümertekin.

Very cool space to hang out in within the centre of Beyoğlu.

Traditional Turkish Breakfast
Fresh grounding

Turkish Breakfast! I have never experienced anything quite like it! A veritable feast of flavours and freshness and colour! Jam that is pure fruit: peach, apple, plum. Goats cheese. Salad that is simply tomato, cucumber and dill with pomegranate dressing. Spiced olives. Good Bread! And that was before they brought the spiced egg, little delicate pikelets, dream haloumi and wafer thin spinach cheese pastry out!

All enjoyed with great organic fresh coffee. I asked in what order should I enjoy the food. The beautiful turkish girl replied with a deep flash of her eyes ‘Listen to your body and you will know!’

Hidden Entry to The Mosque

Arda, my Interpreter, guided me to a very special place: The Rustem Pasha Mosque. It was hidden amid market stalls on route to the Spice and Grand Bazaars. Smaller than The Blue Mosque, to me it was more modest and peaceful as a place to reflect. The tile work was much more accessible and I was able to more closely appreciate the patterns and their detail. Built by Mimar Sinan the mosque is lined with Iznik tiles featuring hatia, rumi, cloud and tulip designs in rich colors of turquoise, green, red, and cobalt on a white background.

Portico where one prepares before entering the Mosque
Many of the Iznik Tiles on the exterior were removed. Only later did the community attempt to refind them or replace them with other tiles.
The tiles originally formed complete continuous patterns
The beautiful mix of collected tiles many not originally from the Mosque

Through the sequence of arrival, ascending from the market, through a small door and dark set of enclosed steps (one of four sets), we arrived within the entry courtyard of the Mosque. The courtyard was defined in three sections (open air, arcade and the narthex; covered with tiles) and surrounded on three sides by porticos.

The view beyond the portico

The courtyard had a subtle sense of enclosure defined by floating domes and framed views beyond and below, through the colonnades of stonework. The combination of stone, ironwork, tiling and stained glass were in balance on the exterior. Inside was truly like ‘Walking into Heaven’s Garden’ with thousands of Iznik tiles colored and patterned with the pure beauty of nature lining the Mosque interior. We were there in the early afternoon midweek, and it was very peaceful. I found it hard to imagine people spilling out into the courtyard for Friday Prayer. But this was a weekly occurrence when the Mosque had full visitation.

One of four Shadowed Entry Portals to the Mosque
Stepping back out into the Bazaar
The Bosphorous

When I think of Istanbul I think of rich color. The color of the Bosphorous, a lustrous blue, that is echoed in the Iznik tiles within the Mosques. I think of the fresh tasting colorful Turkish food including pomegranates, cheeses and spice; and the natural colors held within the patterns of the Turkish and Islamic carpets, textiles, stonework, inlay and carvings.


I also think of the topography of the land and the layers of history held within the fabric of the city: from the Byzantine ruins, to Islamic Mosques. Istanbul (Constantinople) became the Ottoman Capital in the late 15th Century after the Ottoman Dynasty rose to power. At the height of the Ottoman Empire it extended over three continents; from Algeria to Iraq and included the Holy Sites of Mecca and Medina. The wealth of the Empire is reflected in this diverse cultural landscape and arts. Their textiles and fine arts of that time do not depict human or animal figures so as to set them apart from artefacts in Iran.

Grand Bazaar Ceiling
Grand Bazaar

I spent time walking through the winding narrow streets of Tunel, visited the Spice and Grand Bazaars in Pasa, and enjoyed the Cemberlitas Hamami an ancient Turkish Bath built in 1584 AD by Royal Architect Sinan. My experiences in Istanbul were greatly assisted by my host, translator and guide Arda Gokger.

The Beautiful Arda Gokger at The Rustem Pasha Mosque; Iznik Tiles in the background
Inspiring spaces

While in London I spent a lot of time at The Victoria & Albert Museum. These visits were essential in understanding my experiences in Japan and China, and preparing for Turkey. I spent a lot of time within the V&A’s Islamic, Japanese and Chinese Collections, in particular cross checking terminology, history, techniques, pattern types and importantly spelling!

Minbar for Sultan Qa’itbay (1468-96)  and carved screen, V&A Collection
Ottoman Textiles Featuring L > R ‘The stripes of the Tiger’; ‘Velvet with 8-Point Stars’; and the much-loved Tulip all from the V&A Islamic Collection (1500 – 1600)

The Ironwork Collections, Print and Jewelry Collections also gave perspective to and reinforced much of my research to date. An inspiring experience!