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"There is no Turkish design or Arab design any more. It's 21st-century design," says Melkan Gursel Tabanlioglu. Lee Hoagland/The National
'There is no Turkish design or Arab design any more. It's 21st-century design,' says Melkan Gursel Tabanlioglu. Lee Hoagland/The National

Turkish architect's designs on Crystal Towers in Dubai

Melkan Gursel Tebangiolu talks about her firm's first Dubai project and the importance of mixed use buildings in modern cities.


Melkan Gursel Tabanlioglu is a Turkish architect who is working on Crystal Towers at Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk in Dubai. The project is the first UAE project to get under way for the 42-year-old's Istanbul-based company Tabanlioglu Architects.


q Crystal Towers includes a hotel, shopping space, restaurants, a beach club and a mosque. How are you harmonising these elements?


a The major idea is development in Dubai. There are many unique, beautiful towers in Dubai, competing with each other but they don't have access to people and people don't have access to them. [The buildings] have to be a part of the city. It should be for the citizens. Crystal Towers is by the sea and it would have cafes, restaurants and book shops. People would want to be there to see and be seen before going to the seaside.

Do these very different elements make it hard for an architect to design a building nowadays?

It's more complex, but mixed use buildings are more vibrant. You can call it trendy. A city is not only for shopping or working or residence. It is important to build a community. It is one of the best solutions to create public spaces.

Where do you get inspiration for the designs?

Dubai is a competitive city and it's a great place for us to leave our signature on this world stage. There is no Turkish design or Arab design any more. It's 21st-century design. You have to respect the past - early past and near past - and also we are part of the Middle Eastern culture.

Which are your biggest markets?

We are not there in Europe. But we work in [Commonwealth of Independent States], North Africa and middle Africa as well as the Middle East. We have worked in Equatorial Guinea, Tripoli, restarting in Benghazi [Libya], and we have built a stadium and a cultural building in Kazakhstan among others. We are building the first open air shopping centre in Istanbul that would also be residential. We have 30 ongoing projects.

How did you come to work for Tabanlioglu Architects?

The company was started by my father-in-law, Hayati Tabanlioglu, a well-known modern Turkish architect, and my husband and his son Murat in 1991. Mr Tabanlioglu [senior] built Turkey's first opera building and the first galleria. I studied architecture at Istanbul Technical University. After graduating in 1993 I attended the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. I met my husband at a construction site and [the senior Tabanlioglu] was there. You can understand it was a very architectural meeting. In two years we got married. I joined the company in 1995. My father-in-law passed away in 1994. I got only a year with him. Now, we have 150 architects at our headquarters in Istanbul, 20 in Ankara and two more in Dubai.

What makes your architecture house different from the others?

We are down to earth, and work closely with the client, the topography of the place and the people, culture and budget of the client. And we are from the Middle East.



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