Passing along the shore of the Bosporus, I am always amazed by the mansions and kiosks on both sides. For how long they have been standing there? Who have lived there? What kind of lives the current residents are living? What is it like waking up to the view of the Bosporus? Inspirational? Refreshing? Fortunate?
I know that I might never find satisfying answers to all my questions. But luckily one of them in Rumelihisarı opens its doors to the public and offers a stimulating experience inside.
I am talking about “Perili Köşk”, the haunted kiosk, along the quay of Rumelihisarı. It is the red building that stands tall near the pier of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge on the European side. It is castle-like, gloomy and mysterious from the outside. Today it is no longer home to ghosts and spirits but to one of the largest holdings in Turkey and their contemporary art collection. That’s why the place no longer thrills you out of fear but out of the pleasure of modern aesthetics and the breath-taking view of Istanbul.
The story of the transformation that the building went through resembles the breaks in the history of this country. Its construction first started in 1910. It belonged to Yusuf Ziya Pasha, a rich Ottoman officer.
However, its construction was disrupted at the outbreak of the First World War since all its workers had to join the army. It was probably the unfinished, bleak appearance of the building that deserved the title “haunted” or the rumours of voices heard from the upper floors. Different residents had continued to reside in the building. It wasn’t until 2000 that the construction was completed by architect Hakan Kiran. The façade of the building remained loyal to the original design by using bricks imported from England, however the interior was completely modernized.
Since 2007, the “haunted” mansion serves as the headquarters of Borusan Holding which is active in steel manufacturing, distributorship of luxury cars, energy and logistics. The interior design of the mansion no longer resembles a traditional Ottoman mansion. It is designed to be used as an open-office for Borusan employees during the weekdays and as a public museum during the weekends.
Contrary to the exterior, it is bright and spacious. Large windows open to the view of the Bosporus and the white walls hold precious art-pieces. The only gendered place of the building is the bathrooms and the signs read “Bayan değil Kadın” (Not lady, but woman) with reference to a feminist discussion which aims to replace the usage of the term “lady” with “woman” in public.
The headquarters of the holding transforms into “Borusan Contemporary”, a public museum during the week-ends. Employees are asked to pack their things up at the end of each Friday. The desks remain. Meeting rooms, offices, including the CEO’s, become an exhibition hall.
As a patron of arts and culture Borusan Holding has established its collection in 1990s. The collection is focused on modern and contemporary art, new media arts, experimental and digital artworks of Turkish and international artists which were either commissioned site-specifically, bought or acquired after temporary exhibitions. On Sundays and Saturdays visitors come and go for a contemporary experience, in a modernized interior, with a magnificent view of the legendary Bosporus, in a more than a century old mysterious building. Thrilling, right?
If you are seeking a hybrid experience of Istanbul this is a must visit place. I suggest you start by a nice and short walk on the Bosporus, have a look at Perili Köşk from afar to prepare for the adventure awaiting you.
Before you start to climb the building, stop at the terrace on the second floor to have your daily ritual of Turkish coffee. Take a sip, breathe in, and look up. Keep this spectacular view from below in your mind. You will need to remember it when you are having a highly modern experience up above.
When you start your visit try to imagine the life of the former residents, the current employees, the staff or a meeting with the executives. Don’t forget to appreciate the artworks, try to get their meaning on their own and also the new meaning they acquire in this corporate context.
If feeling lost, find a window. It opens to yet another art piece: the view of the Asian shore. Once you reach the tenth floor, your breath will be taken away by the panorama of Istanbul. Spend as much time as you can there. Contemplate. I am not saying that the view had given all the answers to my questions. But it definitely serves as a nice closure to this puzzling experience of Perili Köşk.
By NAZ VARDAR