Istanbul’s historic Beyazit Public Library

The restoration of Istanbul’s Beyazit public library, with its rare book collection, was completed by Tabanlıoğlu Architects last year. The historic piece of architecture dates back to 1501 and was formally a soup kitchen and a traveler’s inn that included a kitchen, a primary school, a hospital, a madrasah (religious school) and a hammam (steam room).

Located adjacent to the Beyazıt Mosque, the library is sited in the public square and connected to the spine of the historical peninsula, Divanyolu; one of the most vibrant spaces in the old part of the city. Tabanlıoğlu Architects response saw the interior of the building being sensitively re-organised and the structural fabric carefully restored, including the prominent multi-domed roof.

The quarter, where the state library sits, is infused with historical connections of a literary nature; the old-book bazaar (Bouquiniste) that is set in a courtyard leads Tobeyazıt gate, one of the main entrances of the Grand Bazaar. The front façade of the library backs the monumental plane tree under which is the traditional open air coffee shop serving since the Ottoman times.

In place of the former concrete roof, the architects installed a light and transparent inflatable membrane structure which covers the courtyard, filtering daylight and providing a controlled atmosphere. In the renovated shell of the building, the black glass boxes devoted to the manuscripts, stand as a monolithic objects that play stark contrast to their surroundings.

The ‘minimal intervention’ approach ensures the spirit of the place survives while present-day facilities are subtly integrated. A modest extension – respectful of the scale of the existing building – has been constructed to the northeast façade to the existing library.

Contemporary Turkish publications are based on the second floor and periodicals on the first, while the ground level houses the rare book collection. Publications in the Ottoman era and other Ottoman, Arabic and Persian manuscripts that are now kept in air conditioned transparent cabins designed to fit in the intense atmosphere while preserving the legacy.

Instinct Furniture BLOG, mostly about cool libraries, furniture and design – keeping you abreast of our world. (Source: Designboom. All images by Emre Dorter).

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