Tabanlioglu Architects: Building local and building smart

Designing buildings which reflect the culture of the nation and community in which they are sited is the major urbanist philosophy of Turkish-based Tabanlioglu Architects.

Run by husband-and-wife team Murat and Melkan Tabalioglu the studio says it focuses on the matters of building in global terms – yet for the achievement of best design quality the architects evaluate the expressions of each country, region and zone, distinctively.

“Building local and building smart – that is what we set out to do,” says Melkan who was in Dubai as part of an architectural forum.

“Of course we want to design a contemporary building – but as well we want to match it with the local landscape. We explore how we can add to the local culture.”

Both in Turkey, the Loft Gardens, which explored combining the latest technology with community and Bodrum International Airport projects received RIBA International Awards for the firm.

As well as being a major force in its home nation the company is active across the world.

Melkan says: “When you look at Dubai you are looking at what is obviously an international city but it is also a place where people know what they want and how they will use it.

“But we have also been working a lot in Africa where we have attempted to reflect as much of the local culture as possible.”


An intensive urban and architectural movement began in Libya following the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime – however this is now no longer taking place due to the country’s instability.

Tabanlioglu’s Congress Center is intended to welcome world leaders to a harmonious environment with water features providing a mystique and calming quality and the building itself reflecting the surrounding trees.

Corresponding contemporary needs and architectural values, the building is in harmony with its “place” in terms of natural resources and cultural heritage.

The center signifies the spirit of its homeland and claims to establish a physical relation with the global community.


Galata Pier, situated at one of the most critical points of Istanbul, has been a sea gate of the city for centuries and the Galataport Project is the transformation Project of the 1,5 km coastline of the Turkish Maritime Operations and the buildings located within this zone.

Besides renovation and reinforcement of the historical buildings, betterment and beautification of the environment is envisaged by adding various social functions to these buildings, including the rehabilitation of Tophane Square and the creation of a modern museum.

Istanbul Modern, which is transformed from the abandoned warehouse building #4, is the first seed of Galataport urban transformation project. The museum is considered as an extension of the public area.


Republic of Equatorial Guinea is located in the west coast of Middle Africa, including several small offshore islands. Malabo is the capital and the second largest city of Equatorial Guinea, located on the northern coast of Bioko Island. The Sipopo Congress Center building site is situated by the ocean and surrounded by the woods, next to the recently built Meeting Hall.

The rectangular  two-storey block is nested in a semi-transparent metal envelop as a shield protecting from strong lights and create an implication of security, protecting the interiors from sharp sun beams yet benefiting the daylight at optimum.

The lacy texture of the mesh behaves like sun-break and grants a shady interior without hindering the accent of transparency. The building with its elegant veil visually merges to the ocean and the surrounding greenery in serenity, reflecting the beauty of the surroundings.


“For these centres we need to create an atmosphere which in conducive to debate,” says Melkan. “Politicians, local, regional or national, make decisions which can change people’s lives. So it is important to ensure that the surroundings allow them to focus their minds.”