Tabanlioglu renovates Istanbul’s oldest library, replacing concrete roof with transparent structure

Turkish architecture firm, Tabanlioglu Architects has completed the renovation works for Istanbul’s oldest and largest library, the Beyazit Public Library.

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Adjacent to the Beyazit Mosque, the library is located in Beyazit Square, surrounded by literary history including an old book bazaar as well as a coffee shop that has been operation since the Ottoman days. The library location is closely rooted in the city’s past.

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“The function of a project dictates basic design ideas; despite the fact that Beyazıt Library building was originally converted from the soup kitchen and Caravanserai of the Beyazıt Kulliyah, updating the functionality of this precious historic public space has been essential, particularly in terms of preservation of the rare book collection, as well as opening the place to a wider community, at the edge of the Beyazıt Square,” said Melkan Gursel, partner at the firm.

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The renovation involved a re-organisation of the interior of the building as well as a restoration of the building fabric with its prominent multi-domed roof.

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In place of the library’s former concrete roof, Tabanlioglu Architects installed a lightweight, transparent structure which covers the courtyard, filtering daylight and proving a controlled environment.  

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“Our inspiration has been the dome structure, the patio, diffused light of interior spaces and the stone walls of the 16th century. The project is also meant to showcase something; that is the immense collection of books. Our aim has been to design for this unique situation and we chose to be free of unnecessary “design” elements and focused on the space itself, rather than on any decor or details not relevant to the heritage and function,” said Gursel.

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“Simplicity and clarity is appreciated by choosing elements in the way of colors, textures and furnishings that helped create a contemporary place in harmony with the true nature of the Library,” she added.

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In the renovated area of the building, the architects installed black glass boxes that carry the manuscripts and stand as monolithic objects, contrasting their surroundings.

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The main entrance has also been shifted to the courtyard area in order to “best serve its modern function”.


A modest extension has also been added to the northeast facade of the existing building. Modern Turkish publications can be found on the first floor and periodicals on the second, while the ground level houses rare books, publications from the Ottoman era as well as other Ottoman, Arabic and Persian manuscripts that are now kept in air conditioned transparent cabins.

Photography by Emre Dorter 


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