16th Biennial On The Princes’ Islands In Istanbul – OpEd


Within the scope of the biennial, art exhibitions were held in Istanbul Pera Museum, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum. The Nakkaştepe Abdülmecit Pavilion exhibition was very interesting with its hyper-realist art works.

The Biennial events were organized for the first time in 2015 on the Prince Islands. However it is not  held  in 2017. This year, between “September 14-November 10, art events were held in five different venues in Büyükada. Many local and foreign art lovers came to the Princes’ Islands (Büyükada) to visit the artistic creations.

Kadıyoran Taşmektep (Stone house palace) garden was full of visitors all day long. Tour groups, curious individual visitors came to visit the palace garden. The sound installation by “Hale Tenger” in the garden was very interesting. Volunteer guides informing the guests of the venue, said that the number of daily visitors was around a thousand.

Taşmektep was built in 1870 -1880 years. It was used as summer house by the archbishop of Alexandria Sofronios until 1922. Sofronios wanted to take office at the Fener Patriarchate in Istanbul, hence he always kept a place in Istanbul. He escaped from the hot summer months of Egypt and he took refuge in the cool house of Buyukada.

At that time, the luxury cruise ships from Alexandria to Istanbul carried Egypt’s educated elite wealthy people here.

The Taşmektep summer palace was designed by a French architect. The two-storey building on the back left, was given  to the housekeeper and the maids, behind which the barn was built. Now these places are being used as private property, beautifully manicured summer  houses.

Taşmektep was abandoned in 1922 by the Archbishop, and it was used as a primary school until 1967 during the new Republic period. The children of the Kadıyoran slope, our cousins ​​who live in Büyükada all year long, attended primary school here. Two floors with high ceilings and a basement. On top is a solid roof, made of thick outer walls. The magnificent beautiful building was completely abandoned in the 1970s, its furniture was removed, the building was evacuated, solid windows and windows were dismantled. The wooden floors of the building were rotten in time.

Now walking around is very dangerous, the rotten wooden floor may collapse at any moment.During the biennial we entered the garden of Taşmektep many times and we talked to other visitors in the garden. What can be done in this beautiful building? We wish it was primary school again, with the playground  filled with children’s voices. Whether it is a cultural center, or “literature house” can be a place to gather.

At near Berlin Kudam, you can have a bookstore in the lower basement, a cafe in the garden, tea coffee pastry service, cafe on the lower floor, library on the upper floor. Who knows, maybe one day we can realise that option. This place should be used, let it work, some institute own it, look it, repair it.

The important feature of the Biennial is the opening of closed private houses/ spaces throughout the year for the residents of the islands and the visitors coming from outside the island, creating the opportunity to visit these places. The gate of Taşmektep was closed all year, thanks to Biennalle, the garden was opened and the building was inspected from outside by all visitors.

We always wondered about the Mizzi mansion with the tower on the way to Nizam. This year, thanks to the Biennial, it was possible to enter inside and visit. The restoration was recently finished by the new owners. The interior is very splendid with high ceilings. The front yard is beautiful. “Glenn Ligon” designs were exhibited here.

There was also a “Monster Chetwynd” installation in the front yard at the Hocopoulo mansion in the former district governor’s office. We sat on the benches in the yard, it was very enjoyable. The building has undergone a new restoration. It is not yet clear what purpose to use the building then.

This is a nostalgic place for the islanders. It was the district governor’s court, population and health services were here. The building lived because it was used inside for many years. We all had business there, we entered, we followed our business, we knew every floor and every place.After the district governor moved from here, the building got old rapidly, the wooden floor rotted, it was dangerous to walk in.

Anatolian private club’s first building was built in 1900 as an English sailing club. “Armin Linke and Ursula Ayer” artworks were exhibited in the yellow mansion. The upstairs sea view was great. The exhibition in the twin kiosk next door attracted visitors’ attention. The second remaining behind the kiosk needs serious  maintenance repairs. We hope the money will be raised to repair soon. It is a great pleasure to sit outdoors in the garden of the Anatolian club and drink tea and coffee.

The “Andrea Zittel” arrangement, which was exhibited in the open space in front of the Atatürk statue, was the last stop for the visitors. Concrete rectangular work was interesting. Thanks to the Biennial, the Islands received visitors in many different profiles. Istanbul’s educated academics students, youths flocked here.

The next Biennial will take place in October-November 2021, two years later. We have to offer to suggest new places for the next  biennial. The church gardens come to our mind,  also restored Armenian church, which had undergone a new resoration on Mehmetçik Street. Classical music concerts can be held here during the biennal. It could be the old Eyed Mason lodge on the way to the mine section. Famous novelist Resat Nuri Güntekin house or John pasha lodge. The Trochky mansion can be repaired and opened to visitors. Greek orphanage, Hristos Hill, Aliye Berger House, AyaYorgi Hill, Synagogue Garden, each with its own history.

The biennial activities must spread to other islands. Local people, retirees living on the islands should be volunteer guides during the Biennial. In order to volunteer, you apply to iksv.org and send your resume to the Iksv website. You share your history with local and foreign visitors coming to the islands. As you know the islands, you are adding something from yourself.

It’s nice to be in these beautiful places, to talk to visitors, to seek better for the islands, to seek solutions to problems. As the islanders, we must also contribute. We would like to thank the iksv foundation and Eczacıbaşı Group and the sponsor Koç Group for their support. Thanks to them, Istanbul has had a very nice event lasting two months. 

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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