Haute Living Reports From Istanbul: A Modern Design Mecca

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On the surface Istanbul, Turkey, is a place filled with sights, smells, tastes and textures so unfamiliar to visitors that they seem mystical, almost magical. After even the briefest of stays, visitors come to realize the people and culture of this city is intoxicating. Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, is a city steeped in centuries-old Ottoman lore juxtaposed against a very modern irritability. It is a celebration of old versus new, where change is taking place an incredible pace.

The world has taken notice; Istanbul is asserting itself. As in many cities where unrest or discontent simmers, there is conversely a blossoming creative underbelly. Visitors need look no further than Orhan Pamuk’s book The Museum of Innocence. Pamuk is easily Turkey’s greatest modern literally export. His book and museum of the same name were conceived simultaneously, a work so dense and meticulous it echoes the rich creative tapestry that defines Turkish society. But this is just the beginning; to get a true understanding one must take in the broader artistic landscape.

That's exactly what the organizers of the first-ever Istanbul Design Biennial hope to do, exhibiting varied works which introduce viewers to the “messy reality of everyday life.” As part of the Biennial, exhibits have popped up all across Istanbul's city center, including notable installations like Musibet at the Istanbul Modern Museum and Adhocracy at the Galata Greek School. Both projects shed light on the rapidly transforming urban, social, and cultural conditions that define the city while giving viewers a rare opportunity to explore the very spaces in question.

Traveling around the city, one realizes that Istanbul exhibits a craftsmanship which no longer exists within Western culture. Digging through treasures in the bazaars or sipping fresh pomegranite juice while weaving through the hilly roads; stumbling across a woodworking shop where father and son still work side-by-side; discovering unique lighting shops with prices so cheap that customs and shipping charges suddenly seem reasonable...

Luckily, the Biennial's organizers grasped early on that in order to truly appreciate Istanbul, replete with both beauty and imperfections, you must explore its borders. Eight different Design Walks have been organized, each with a unique theme, ranging from an exploration of different designers (from fashion to landscaping) to historical neighborhoods, temples, architecture, and of course the Grand Bazaar.

Whether you make it to Istanbul during the Biennial or later, our highlights from the Design Walks shouldn’t be missed on your next visit to this incredible destination.

Serdar-i Ekrem Caddesi, Seraskerci Sok. 5, Galata, Istanbul, 0 (212) 243-7320

  • For handmade wooden furniture: Stoa

Hayriye Caddesi No. 18/1, Istanbul, 0 (212) 251-4098

Hacımimi Mah. Serdar-ı Ekrem Sk. No:38/1 Galata, İstanbul, 0 (212) 293-3661

Hacı Mimi Mah, Ali Hoca Sokak, No:20 / C, Beyoğlu, Istanbul, 0 (212) 245-7826

The Istanbul Design Biennal runs until December 12, 2012. For more information, please visit the exhibit's website

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