New York has so much to offer that you’re never quite done exploring. This time, I chose to explore the Turkish skyscraper with Ottoman influences in the heart of New York City that is the Turkish House (Türkevi). The building looks like a real masterpiece and serves as the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations and Consulate General in New York as well as a venue for diplomatic events. Designed by New York-based architecture firm Perkins Eastman with input from Turkey’s Dizayn Group, the building is shaped like a tulip at the top, the most revered flower in the Ottoman Empire.
The Turkish word for the flower is “lale,” which becomes “Allah” when spelled out in the Ottoman-era alphabet. Establishing itself as a symbol of religion and the state itself, the tulip was widely cultivated during the 1718-30 reign of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III, which is known as the Tulip era. The Turkish House is also curved at the edges to represent the crescent in the Turkish flag. The entrance area’s design is inspired by the old Silk Road’s caravansaries, or roadside inns, where weary travelers once stayed to rest and recover. The Turkish House also has a great art collection telling many stories. The black-and-white photographs shot by Burhan Doğançay in all corners of the world over the course of 40 years are truly mesmerizing.
Burhan Doğançay’s photographs
“Walls of the World,” “Brooklyn Bridge” and “Ironworkers” as well as many other photos of Doğançay’s observations during his travels are on display at the Turkish House. These images with a focus on urban walls are a highlight of the collection as they offer an especially vivid illustration of Doğançay’s artistic practice and his use of photography in particular. Doğançay’s works are found in the collections of many museums around the world, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, as well as the National Gallery of Art in Washington, MUMOK in Vienna, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, Istanbul Modern in Istanbul, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem along with the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
Elif Uras’ sculptures
Elif Uras is a painter and ceramist whose work questions the role of women in society and engages with the long span of Turkey’s material and cultural past. Uras’ three sculptures welcome visitors at the Turkish House’s entrance. Her ceramic sculptures and paintings explore shifting notions of gender and class. In her works, the artist focuses on what she describes as “shifting notions of gender and class within the context of the struggle between modernity and tradition.” Her imagery merges traditional nonfigurative Anatolian art with the figurative tradition while also exploring the representation of the female body across cultures.
Ardan Özmenoğlu’s artwork: ‘Remember Me’
While visiting the Turkish House, I also saw two wonderful artworks by the artist Ardan Özmenoğlu. One is a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, entitled “Remember Me.” When I asked Özmenoğlu about the stories behind the works, I learned that the inscription “Remember Me” was written in Atatürk’s own handwriting in his “Nutuk” (“The Great Speech”), but he scribbled the sentence out and did not read it. In “Remember Me,” Özmenoğlu repeats this sentence over and over again on a portrait of Atatürk. “The pattern that appears as a motif is actually his handwriting,” he said. Another piece by Özmenoğlu is “Azure,” a blue tree made of glass panels.
In short, the Turkish House will continue to host works to be proud of with its works of art collection, screenings, concerts and special events.