Sema Topaloglu: creating the artifacts of tomorrow?

  • January 11th, 2012

    THE SIGNATURE MOTIF OF A FANTASTIC TALENT.

    Dear Mayor of Istanbul,

    I’d like to sincerely thank you and the city for the ongoing work you’re doing upgrading public transportation. I’ve lived here just over six years now, and I’ve seen a vast improvement and many positive changes. Automobile traffic its resulting pollution is a huge problem, and the more you do to unclog the streets and clean up the air, the better. In addition, you’ve made it possible for me to go from Taksim Square to my home in Yeniköy in under 40 minutes, mostly thanks to the underground. This means that rather than sitting in traffic with horns blaring and inching along at a snail’s pace, I can instead be home and spend valuable time with my daughter. This makes a huge difference to my quality of life, and I trust, hers.

    That’s why I don’t want to sound ungrateful if I make a small suggestion … since you’re doing a great job improving how people move from point A to point B — how about also moving people in the figurative sense?

    Istanbul is unlike any other city in the world and I chose to live here because its streets, its vistas, and especially its people, thrill me.  There are moments I feel like there should be a soundtrack in the background. Part of that scene is that it has some truly iconic architecture. The problem is that today that architecture is old, really old …  and it’s made me wonder if public spaces, like metro stations and corridors, squares and parks, couldn’t do more to stimulate the public imagination or create a sense of the moment we live in now.  What art and architecture created today will be worth preserving hundreds of years from now?

    There’s no lack of talent in this city, and one of the people I’d recommend you work with has a very distinctive Turkish voice. She’s also passionate to make changes in the city she calls home. Sema Topaloglu has a fresh eye and a style, which rather than being imitative or nostalgic, is independent and distinctive. Perhaps that’s just what Istanbul needs to continue to inspire wonder in the centuries ahead?

    Thank you for reading this,

    MyPhilosofia.com

    DESIGN PASSION: SEMA TOPALOGLU SAYS GOING TO WORK IS LIKE “BEING IN LOVE.”

    As you can see from my imaginary, yet sincerely felt letter above, I’m a believer in Sema Topaloglu’s work and would love to see her achieve her dream of doing some iconic public space projects. I met her for the first time about five years back and have followed her work avidly ever since. It’s been a while since we last spoke, but she’s been busy, refining her distinctive talent as well as being named a “Name To Watch” by the likes of Wallpaper* Magazine in 2010.What first drew me to Sema’s work is its passionate sense of play. The media—Black Sea timber, stone, glass and steel—she works in are pleasingly tactile. What’s also striking is the brand of whimsy she manages to bring to these industrial strength materials, creating objects, interiors and surfaces that surprise and delight.

    SEMA’S PROJECT-WINNING SKETCHES FOR A BEYOGLU APARTMENT (PENDING APPROVAL).

    I hope to collaborate on a project with Sema at some time in the near future. In the meantime, I’ve satisfied myself by nosing about at her workshop in Fener/Balat and seeing the studio’s creativity in progress, which even in its design and conceptual stage, is intriguingly different. We also had time to share a cup of coffee.

    Things are a little different then when we last spoke. You’ve moved.

    Sema Topaloglu: I find Fener and Balat very different from Beyoglu. It’s very mystic. The Haliç (Golden Horn) inspires me. I want to be part of the change.

    Mystic … I like that. But you’re also different. How?

    ST: I’m older (laughs) … yes, my work has become more graphic, more refined, less raw. I like to add more texture now.

    You’re busy?

    ST: Yes.  We have many projects and many ambitions. I’m also working on a new brand, called … “Sema,” (laughs). I will also be opening a new space in Karaköy down the side street from Karaköy Lokantasi which will be four floors, a gallery space and perhaps a store, each floor only 12 x 12 meters. We have several new living and office projects, so we’ve had to temporarily pause on the Yesil Ev (Green Home) guest house project which is just a few streets away. And we are also preparing for the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair in February, which is an important step for us. 

    What about Milan?

    ST: We’ll be at Milan. Last year was a great experience and it is an important … showcase.

    I’ve noticed a few new faces … how many?

    ST: We were only three people before. Now we are 15! We have new designers, new architects and our own craftsmen working on site. I think we are the only architecture studio in Turkey where the craftsmen are on staff together with the designers to build our furniture and projects. I’m really interested in integrating more craftsmanship, more graphic design for greater detail and quality.

    DESIGNER TOLGA AND THE USTALAR (CRAFTSMEN) WORKING SIDE-BY-SIDE AT THE CiBALi STUDIO.

    I’m really interested in processes … where ideas come from, their development. What keeps your ideas flowing?

    ST: Despite getting older, I am still learning. This keeps me energetic. Turkey is a difficult place to work, but these problems they stimulate me. And  it has taken a few years but now I am beginning to be understood, here at home. I am not only working for money, you know? I love my life, I invest a lot [in my work].

    Turkey is at a critical stage. We are beginning to be well enough off, and appreciate daily life … we need to preserve  our way.

    CONCEPTUAL SKETCHES POSTED ABOVE WORKSPACES CONVEY ENERGY AND LIFE, EVEN ON THE PAGE.

    To see Sema’s Portfolio visit:

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