The Making of: Emek Cinema

Moderator Mustafa Tazeoğlu

Salt Beyoğlu

October 15, 2011 14.00

A symbol of İstanbul’s cinema culture, from 1924 to 2009 the Emek Cinema was home to events ranging from Yeşilçam galas to İstanbul Film Festivals. Following the theater’s closure, and amidst rumors of the building’s impending demolition, a unique upheaval of resistance took place. In addition to attempts by chambers of urban planners and architects to question decision-making processes relating to public monuments, members of the film industry and cinephiles have stood firmly against demolition of the building, organizing several petition campaigns and gatherings with the help of social media.

The core of the debate surrounding demolition is a large-scale urban transformation project. This project encompasses the entire block of the Cercle d’Orient building complex, which houses the Emek Cinema. Established in 1884, Cercle d’Orient was designed by levantine architect Alexander Vallaury, and is one of İstiklal Avenue’s unique structures. The Emek Cinema, the Melek and İskentinj Apartment buildings and the İpek Cinema were added to the Cercle d’Orient’s courtyard after the 1920s.

In 1993, the complex was lent to a private firm for a duration of 25 years, on the condition that it was to be open to the public, based on a build-operate-transfer model. The firm subsequently announced its intention to tear down all the block’s buildings, with the exception of the Cercle d’Orient, a first degree historical building, to build a new office center. The implementation of the proposed project, however, was annulled in court after an appeal by Mimarlar Odası İstanbul Büyükkent Şubesi [Chamber of Architects of Turkey İstanbul Branch]. In 2006, the Council of Ministers declared the land a “Restoration Area” as per Law no. 5366 on the Sustainable Use of Downgraded Historical Real Estate Through Protection by Renewal and Reuse effectively bringing the subject back on the agenda. The newly-launched projects on the block in which the Cercle d’Orient complex is situated were approved by the Board of Conservation of Cultural and Natural Assets in 2009, although this approval was revoked shortly after as a result of the legal proceedings inititated by the Chamber of Architects.

In a television appearance, Fatih Kesgün, architect of the Cercle d’Orient complex project, announced that the Emek Cinema would not be torn down. Rather, its ceiling and walls, together with their original ornaments, would be transferred 20 meters above, to the fourth floor of the new building, where they would be installed next to ten other movie theaters. The new eight-storey building, planned to replace the Emek Cinema, will contain a museum of Yeşilçam celebrity wax figures, several movie theaters, restaurants, cafés and stores selling cinema culture paraphernalia.

What other functions could be effective in generating reuse of the historic Cercle d’Orient building and its annexes?

This workshop will be held in Turkish. The page for the workshop in English on December 10, 2011 can be viewed here.

You can register to the workshop by emailing your contact information to
Emek Cinema