Mon, 02 Oct 2023

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Istanbul's first Art Nouveau-style historic building Casa Botter was recently saved from the brink of collapse through a year-long restoration process and transformed into a distinctive culture and design center.

by Zeynep Cermen

ISTANBUL, April 22 (Xinhua) -- "Ribbons hang from the facade of the building, like stripes descending from the sky... Like foaming waves, the iron decorations on its small balconies flow with the structure... A female head sculpture looks down at passersby with pride."

Ayse Ovur, a Turkish writer, used these words to describe the exterior of Istanbul's first Art Nouveau-style historic building in her novel "Botter's House."

Built under the blueprints of the renowned Italian architect Raimondo D'Aronco in 1900, Casa Botter, or Botter's House, was recently saved from the brink of collapse through a year-long restoration process led by a group of experts, who have transformed it into a distinctive culture and design center.

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According to Ovur's novel, D'Aronco's inspiration for the building came from his deep affection for a young Turkish woman he fell in love with during his stay in Istanbul. The building bore traces of this love, including the woman's head sculpture on the facade, depicting her profile for eternity.

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The completion of the construction saw the building dedicated to Jean Botter, the official tailor of the Ottoman palace and a Dutchman, during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The Sultan, impressed by Botter's designs, sought to honor him with this grand building, hence the name "Casa Botter."

Botter turned the ground floor into a fashion house, the first of its kind in the city, where he showcased his unique designs of pure silk evening dresses. He and his family lived on the upper floors for many years, leaving their mark on the building's history.

"The building is a legacy left to us by two international people, D'Aronco and Botter, who once lived in Istanbul and then departed but left their imprints here. It is very precious for us," said Mahir Polat, deputy secretary-general of the Istanbul Municipality, during a press briefing in the building, where he is also leading the restoration process.

Polat further highlighted that Istanbul is a cultural melting pot where artists from different geographies have produced many amazing works for centuries, all adding value to each other's pieces. "Casa Botter is one of the most iconic artworks in the city, revealing how beautiful creations could be yielded when lives coincide," Polat added, underscoring the significance of this restored gem.

However, time took its toll on Casa Botter, and it was at risk of collapse. But Polat and his colleagues' efforts have saved it from ruin, with its iconic Art-Nouveau facade brought to light again.

The building is now hosting its first art show, "Reveries, Truths," with the participation of several prominent Turkish artists.

"I'm fortunate to be in this 123-year-old historic building. It is precious to touch the structure, feel the spirit, and be a part of it," Melike Bayik, the curator of the show, told reporters. "It is a building that may have fallen asleep for a while, perhaps resisted to the death, and woke up today."

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The upper floors of the building will host a screening center, design workshops, the Istanbul Documentary Film Archive, and artist offices.

Istanbul municipality organized a grand opening ceremony for the Casa Botter on Friday evening open to the public. A classical music concert was held on the magnificent main balcony of the building, luring a splendid interest of Istanbulites and tourists.

According to Istanbul municipality's cultural heritage department, there are over 3,500 abandoned buildings, primarily historic structures, waiting to be saved in Istanbul.

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