The new Ankara CSO Concert Hall—a modern marvel surrounded by Turkish History
A new landmark
A colossal ellipsoid dome reminiscent of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing and its impressive spherical counterpart are juxtaposed with an imposing vaulted triangular foyer in downtown Ankara, Turkey on Ataturk Boulevard.
Designed with timeless authenticity, this impressive and already beautiful building under construction is the new Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO) building, which according to the Ankara Hürriyet, will become one of the symbols of Ankara.
Ankara, Turkey is a beautiful, modern city with a population of about 4.5 million. As the administrative center of Turkey and capital city, Ankara has large populations of government workers, foreign diplomats and embassy staff.
The sprawling city of Ankara boasts a rich history which dates back to the Bronze Age. Persian, Galatian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman influences are woven into both historical and modern structures.
The CSO building will host the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, one of the oldest orchestras in the world operating continuously without interruption. The Ankara Hürriyet reports the CSO building will also host major symphony orchestras and chorals as well as display artwork. It is scheduled to open October 29, 2015.
According to the Hürriyet Daily News, the Culture and Tourism Minister, Ertuğrul Günay, visited the site of the new CSO building in 2012. Remarking on the CSO construction and the laying of the foundation of the Turkish Civilizations Museum, he said, “These are developments that will change the face of Ankara and make it a contemporary capital.”
A difficult beginning
The design of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra building began in 1992 when a National Architectural Competition, open to all architectural offices in Turkey, was announced in May of that year. The egg-shaped design, submitted by Semra and Özcan Uygur of Uygur Architects, was chosen over forty-five other entries on October 9, 1992.
Site preparation began in 1995, but construction could not be completed because of economical problems. Mehmet Saner asserts in his thesis, The Transformation of Old Industrial District of Ankara and Political Actors, that the concert hall project “signified the main structural change of the area.” He said, “The change in the function, physical and social situation of the area is dependent on the realization of this new project; and unless the construction of the concert hall is completed, the intended transformation of the area will not be accomplished.”
It would be 17 years before construction on the CSO building itself could begin.
A Monolithic collaboration
Monolithic’s Vice President, Gary Clark, was first contacted by Mumtaz Pak, representing Abika Construction. After their conversation, Pak sent drawings of the CSO Concert Hall. “…because the drawings were so unique and because they were coming from a foreign country, we really didn’t know how interested or serious they were about the project,” said Clark in a recent interview.
However, a couple of weeks later, Monolithic received a request for pricing and exactly what it would take to construct the main, egg-shaped building, as well as the smaller, 3/4-sphere building that would contain a smaller dome in the bottom portion. In total, the project would entail the construction of 3 air-formed membrane buildings.
Photographs of the building site were sent, illustrating just how serious they were about the CSO building. “We were quite a bit surprised because we could see from the photographs that this wasn’t just a project that was being considered, it was in full construction mode,” Clark said. The photos showed that subterranean work was well underway and the footings were finished.
Gary Clark flew to Ankara and met with Pak and Abika’s owner, Serdar Onaran, along with Charden, the general contractor. Monolithic agreed to provide much of the technology, technical support and prep work and Abika would do the actual construction of the domes. Having a Turkish contractor was important to them as the project was under the direction of the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts and the building would be used as a cultural center.
Upon Clark’s return to Texas, the Airform membrane for the larger, egg-shaped building was fabricated. This was shipped to Ankara along with much of the necessary equipment, including concrete pumps and everything that was needed for spraying the shotcrete.
The domes were engineered by a company from Spain who designed the concrete thickness and rebar placement according to arch engineering rather than dome engineering. David B. South, President of Monolithic, advised the contractors that the domes were over-designed and recommended revising the engineering. In the interest of time, some of Monolithic’s recommendations were taken into account, but most of the already-paid-for engineering was used.
Regarding the engineering, David South said, “As Turkey is well known for its earthquakes, the dome will be the ideal building and with the engineering that was done, it will be the safest building they could build in case of an earthquake.”
Airform membrane inflation
David B. South arrived in Ankara on October 22, 2012 to inspect the site and oversee the inflation of the main concert hall’s air-formed membrane. According to the Ankara Hürriyet in Icon CSO building will be opened in 2015, the membrane took about 3 hours to inflate. John Pregowski oversaw the inflation of the chamber music hall’s smaller spherical shell later.
Below is a link to a time-lapse video of the inflation of the main concert hall’s egg-shaped Airform membrane. (Video courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/uygurarchitects.)
The construction process was described in the Ankara Hürriyet. The Hürriyet reported that under the waterproof, air-formed membrane, an adhesive layer was applied. Then 8-inches of polyurethane foam was sprayed for insulation. Concrete was sprayed over the polyurethane until the total shell thickness reached 52-centimeters.
Many of the Monolithic family spent time in Ankara on site. Jon Pregowski of Poland oversaw the small, spherical shell inflation and building along with the smaller interior shell. He and his son, Benjamin, spent a great deal of time in Ankara as the primary consultant and hands-on advisor. Mike South, Frank Figueroa and Jesse Tovar also spent time in Ankara working in an advisory capacity.
The center triangular foyer was designed by Prota Engineering. The sharp lines of the vaulted foyer provide a stunning contrast to the smooth concrete curves of the concert halls on either side.
While David South was in Ankara in 2012, he wrote, “This is a huge site right in the center of town. It is their new cultural center. The domes are big. They have two levels of basements below them. There are huge triangle buildings and they include a big parking garage. This is going to be a spectacular visitor’s center for people coming into Ankara. They better have a day to do it.”
Projection for Future
The main entrance to the concert hall will be from Ataturk Boulevard which runs the length of Ankara, dividing it north to south. According to the Ankara Hürriyet, concert-goers in Ankara will park their cars in the new Presidential Symphony Orchestral’s four-story parking garage which will have an 800 car capacity. Transportation from the parking lot to the concert hall will take place in a short span of 15 seconds.
On their way into the concert hall, visitors will notice the Ankara Courthouse and the Cer Modern, Ankara’s contemporary arts center, located on land next to the new building.
A bridge will take guests to the entrance over an 18 thousand square meter lake, providing a spectacular setting for the concert hall. As patrons enter the 65,000 square meter building, they will enjoy a dramatic view from the vaulted foyer—The Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, and Ankara Castle, a medieval citadel.
Inside the egg-shaped concert hall, up to 2,000 concert-goers will be able to appreciate having no columns or supporting pillars to impede their view of the orchestra. Guests can also look forward to an auditorium scientifically designed as a musical instrument for acoustics, says the Ankara Hürriyet. Similar views and acoustic design will be enjoyed in the spherical chamber music hall which will seat 500 people.
When all is said and done, visitors will enjoy exquisite music in an equally exquisite setting—a modern marvel surrounded by Turkish history.