Plans to turn a dilapidated building located at the heart of Istanbul into a modern opera hall will soon become reality, according to an announcement late Monday from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who advocated the new use of the iconic venue.
The Atatürk Culture Center, a massive relic overlooking Istanbul's Taksim Square, is a grim reminder of Turkey in the 1960. For its critics, the relic is an eyesore and a dull architectural work, while those who oppose its demolition defend the structure for its historic value, claiming that the site should be designated for building a shopping mall.
Speaking to artists who attended an iftar (fast-breaking dinner) Monday evening in Istanbul, President Erdoğan, who advocated a revival of historic structures in the vicinity of Taksim, said that work will soon begin at the center.
"Culture and the arts have, unfortunately, been monopolized by a certain segment of society who considered anything that contradicts with national values as a factor for gaining prominence in the world of the arts. We have seen the same mindset assault efforts to build something better, to renovate the Atatürk Culture Center. Notably, the center has been heavily damaged in past earthquakes," Erdoğan said about the venue which has been vacant for a long time.
The president said he has been unfairly criticized for years amid governmental attempts to build a more beautiful establishment to replace the "unsafe and ugly structure."
The president asserted, "We were branded as enemy of the art world and artists. However, all we want is for Istanbul to have the culture and arts venue it so deserves," referring to renovations at other formerly dilapidated venues across Istanbul such as the Harbiye Congress Center and the Muhsin Ertuğrul Theater.
Erdoğan said that the same architects who worked on the renovation of iconic venues have undertaken the renewal project at the Atatürk Culture Center.
"The building will be demolished and more space will be added to the venue by connecting space near and behind it. A truly beautiful building will be built in its place," the president said.