Renzo Piano’s Istanbul Modern art museum opens its doors

Landmark waterfront building offers 10,500sq m of space for exhibitions, education and screening

Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s landmark Istanbul Modern has opened to the public after a seven-year project to deliver a new home for Turkiye’s first contemporary art museum.

The 10,500sq m building is on the site of Istanbul Modern’s original home on the Karaköy waterfront, where the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn meet. The museum moved to a temporary base in 2018 for construction to commence.

The design of the project, which is Piano’s first in Turkiye, was inspired by the glittering waters of the Bosphorous and its reflections of light. The outline of the building is intended to evoke images of ships of different sizes travelling between Europe and Asia.

Renzo Piano’s Istanbul Modern art museum opens its doors 2

Its façade is made from a sequence of 3D-formed aluminum panels that play with the changing sunlight, creating a shimmering, iridescent effect similar to that produced by fish scales.

Istanbul Modern features five levels – two of them below ground. Facilities include a viewing terrace at the top of the building and a shallow reflection pool that covers the entire roof. The museum also has a 156-seat auditorium for cinema screenings and other events in its basement.

The building’s transparent ground floor offers views to the waterfront promenade and houses the museum library, education and event spaces, digital touchscreens, a café, and a shop. British artist Richard Wentworth’s “False Ceiling” is one of the permanent installations that welcomes visitors. It was a feature of Istanbul Modern’s original home.

A wide central stairway connecting the public areas of the museum features a three-part site-specific installation by Olafur Eliasson that was commissioned specifically for the new museum. The work, titled “Your unexpected journey”, appears to hang in the air, playing with light and visitors’ sense of space.

The museum’s first floor hosts the photography gallery, event spaces and staff offices, as well as Istanbul Modern’s restaurant. The second floor houses the museum’s permanent collection gallery, as well as the main temporary exhibition gallery.

Current exhibits include an overview of Renzo Piano’s architectural language and a detailed examination of RPBW’s design process for the new building and its structural components.

A selection of new works by architectural photographer Cemal Emden, meanwhile, looks at the museum building’s construction phases and reflects on the dialogue between architecture and photography.

RPBW worked with Arup to deliver Istanbul Modern. Interior architecture is by R. Uysalkan; main contractor was Yapı Merkezi.


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