Istanbul Loves: SALT Beyoğlu, Summer Homes: Claiming the coast

On my recent week-long trip to Istanbul I did what I naturally do in a foreign place – apart from meandering around without aim and eating far too much, which Istanbul is also perfect for – check out the modern art museums. In a way there’s nothing better to start getting a sense of the culture and politics of a place and connect to the current day in one single place, and I prefer it to most historical tourist traps any day.

The first place I visited was just around the corner from my air bnb flat, just located on the main shopping avenue, and my absolute favourite: SALT Beyoğlu. Of course, its somewhat posher sibling, SALT Galata, is a stunning building with an amazing archive, library space and café, but as the current SALT Beyoğlu exhibition was focussed on the built environment and delivered in a brilliant way, I would, naturally, prefer it.

Its subject was the topic of summer home developments on Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coastal areas and beautifully curated their architectural, historical, geographic and socio-political implications by bringing together a range of audio visual materials from institutional and family archives, models, and commissioned artwork. Its narrative plotted the history of the summer home along the geographic implications and its socio-cultural meanings for those who escape the city to enjoy the coast, and generated questions about the overdevelopment of land and the standardisation of holiday destinations, with a view to the future of policy and practice for further development, led centrally rather than regionally.

Besides this great insight into a slice of Turkey’s holiday culture and planning policy at the same time, I very much enjoyed the pace and simplicity of the exhibition and the range of ways it talked to the audience. It retained a common language, but was enjoyably varied in its delivery – any mapping exhibit I encountered had used a slightly different technique: from printed canvas to plastic models on timber, to paint on timber with archival photographs. Pieces of factual and literary writing from authors and professionals were dotted about the exhibition in Turkish and English and could be torn off a notepad to take away. Towards the end of the exhibition, screens showed summer home-themed TV series, and a section was devoted to private archival material and small interactive voting activities. A life-size model of an architect-designed floating summer home could be found at the beginning of the show, and downstairs an artist-designed giant swing invited not to swing outside the lines (I did). The show is also accompanied by regular exhibition critique events and a walk-in cinema every Thursday.

All in all an entirely loveable show, especially if you are interested in the built environment and how to communicate its relevance to an audience in a playful yet comprehensive way. Not to mention I loved the top floor bookshop and quiet herb garden terrace with work space!

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