Atolye on creating a space where community and strategic design meet

"There are many untapped markets as well as industries that need radical interventions" says architect Nesile Yalcin.

Bomontiada in Istanbul

Bomontiada is envisioned as a playground for collaboration where residents, partners and tenants collaborate on a program of cultural activities. It hosts co-generating screenings, concerts, visual art performances, food festivals, creative business conventions including creative hub and design studio, ATÖLYE.

ATÖLYE space, located in this old  beer factory in Istanbul, Turkey, has been redesigned by a team including architect Nesile Yalcin.

Yalcin, the architectural design lead at ATÖLYE says that ATÖLYE started as Engin Ayaz and Kerem Alper’s academic spin-off project with ties to Stanford, and NYU Tisch ITP. While the former institutions provided a design thinking and social impact mindset, the latter offered digital-physical prototyping know-how and a critical technology approach.

Over time, they have established a beta space in Çukurcuma, fostering a core community of 20 people and prototyping their business model as a creative hub and a strategic design studio. Later in 2015, ATÖLYE moved to bomontiada.

“Starting with more than a dozen pop-up workshops, we galvanised a creative community that was in need of a joint purpose and shared resources. ATÖLYE structured a delicate balance between a private, academic, and public partners' model to make the system work, while remaining independent in decision-making processes.”

She says that the philosophy behind the organisation is about staying curious, independent and agile in order to solve current and future problems.

This philosophy will be put to the test, being based in Istanbul, in an emerging country such as Turkey where the economy is not stable.


“The good and the bad of being in this kind of economic situation, (and South Africans will identify with this as we’re at the mercy of the Rand/Dollar exchange), is that Turkey is a country full of surprises. Although the economic instabilities that Turkey faces have its disadvantages, it also creates opportunities that economically stable countries cannot offer. Since Turkey is an emerging economy, there are countless opportunities, and when you find the right way to seize them, your work can have a significant impact.”

ATÖLYE has, for example, been able to work on transdisciplinary projects that include the Open Roof Space at the Private Sezin School in Turkey where an empty unused roof space was turned into a place for meeting, making, learning and working.

Yalcin got her masters' degree in architecture at Istanbul Technical University before moving on to study Urban Design in Brussels.


She’s also led a project called Container Park where architecture contributed not only to shaping spaces in a resourceful way, but strategically fostering a new culture of ecological sensitivity and community-driven research.

Container Park sits within a technopark at a large public university campus which the team also designed.

“There are many untapped markets as well as industries that need radical interventions. This means that there is an abundance of opportunities and this feeling motivates us. Also as far as economy goes, since we offer design projects in four different design disciplines, negative impact on all of the markets is quite low.”

container park

Yalcin says that their work allows them room to experiment and help bridge the gap between different fields of science.

“On a small scale, I also designed a new media lighting installation, Amplify, with three other creative friends for Contemporary Istanbul. And, over the years here at ATÖLYE we started our own furniture line, CNVS, focused on learning and work spaces’ furniture needs to create the right kind of atmosphere for human interaction.”

Her curiosity with alternative ways of using architecture started during architecture studies but even back then she knew that edgy, cool building design, solely, was not her thing.

“I was always looking for user scenarios, design context, history of the site and hints of decision-making processes in design magazines. Later, I understood that I was looking for a novel story to memorise. I believe that architecture alone is mostly not enough to create this novelty. And, this impulse shaped my graduate studies and later choice of direction.”

While Yalcin leads the ATÖLYE architectural team, Atilim Sahin is in charge of the Community and Prototyping Lab where he works with about 130 people from the community.

With a background in design, Sahin helps to organise workshops and Designer-in-Residence programmes that are at the intersection between technology and design.

“Being actively involved in different clusters, and producing together with people from different backgrounds and perspectives, has allowed me to develop skills and establish a common language to communicate with those different entities. I think the name of that language was empathy.”

 He says that into the future they will be focussing more and more on international collaborations, while on the strategic design studio side  of the team will be launching a new graduate programme for students at the Istanbul Bilgi University.

He says that into the future they will be focussing more and more on international collaborations, while on the studio side the team will be launching a new graduate program with Istanbul Bilgi University, around learning, innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.