Museum’s stacked timber design is inspired by the surrounding streetscape of Odunpazari and its history as a timber trading market
Founded by art collector and businessman Erol Tabanca, the Odunpazari Modern Museum (OMM), a major new museum and distinctive architectural landmark by Kengo Kuma and Associates, opened in September of this year.
Situated in Eskişehir, a university city and Anatolia’s capital of culture, the 4,500 square meter landmark introduces an innovative design and a dynamic lineup of multidisciplinary exhibitions and diverse public programming.
OMM’s innovative design, by the acclaimed Japanese architects behind the new V&A Dundee in the UK, provides a bright and spacious new home for the 1,000-piece collection of modern and contemporary art housed inside the museum.
With its stacked timber design, inspired by the surrounding streetscape of Odunpazari and its history as a timber trading market, the museum stands as a new landmark that reconnects the town with its heritage, and as a progressive cultural development for Eskişehir and the Central Anatolia region at large.
“Today’s opening marks the culmination of a visionary process for everyone involved. We are delighted to reveal this unique building, the collection and our exciting inaugural presentations to the community here in my hometown of Eskişehir and to visitors from around the world,” said Erol Tabanca, Founder of OMM.
“We want to bring the international art world here, and we want to bring young artists from the region together with international artists.”
Odunpazari, which means firewood market in Turkish, used to be a centre for timber trading and Kengo Kuma and Associates took this history as the basis for the design.
The region and its famed timber trading market inspired the stacked timber design of the museum.
Blending in the surrounding context of traditional Ottoman wooden houses, and reconnecting with the heritage of Odunpazari, the OMM generates a bridge for cultural exchange and development in the Central Anatolia region.
Kengo Kuma, Principle of Kengo Kuma and Associates, and Yuki Ikeguchi, the partner leading the project, said: “The idea for OMM was to use architecture to create a link between people and art. We were deeply inspired by the history, culture, people and streetscape of Odunpazari, and we wanted the building to resonate on many levels.
“We hope that the museum will breathe new life into Eskişehir and become a central and inviting meeting point for the city.”
“Timber is really important to the town’s heritage,” said Yuki Ikeguchi, the partner leading the project at Kengo Kuma and Associates.
“Ensuring that the building spoke to the history and memory of its setting was always front and centre in our minds. It has been always our practice’s keen interest to build with timber that gives comfort and warmth to the space and is kind to the environment.”
The building consists of a group of square-shaped blocks that are surrounded by laminated-timber beams stacked on top of each other. These have been arranged to continue the streetscape of the surrounding Ottoman houses.
The museum opens out onto a large plaza with steps that run up alongside the building, which connects an area of older housing with a new development.
The idea for OMM was to use architecture to create a link between people and art. “Cantilevers and rotation make the streetscape and walkthrough experience very special and unexpected,” explained Ikeguchi.
“It was my intention to make a link to the unique character of the Ottoman houses adjacent to the site by stacking and rotating the boxes that offer the opportunity to house exhibitions and activities in various scales.
Not just in the formalist manner, but to continue the streetscape and recreate the non-linear journey of visiting the inside of the museum.”
The stacked and interlocked boxes are designed in various sizes to create diverse scales of exhibition space inside, with opportunities for large scale artworks and installations on the ground floor.
At upper levels, the boxes tend to get smaller generating more intimate spaces and exhibitions. It also contains a cafe and a shop.
At the centre of the building, where four of the stacked blocks meet, there is a skylit atrium that stretches the full height of the three-storey building. This timber-lined square skylight twists gently as it rises through the building.
At the museum’s opening ceremony, Japanese master bamboo artist Tanabe Chikuunsai IV put the final touches to his largest ever installation, standing at over 6×8 meters.
The new commission, which is the most recent piece to join OMM’s evolving collection of modern and contemporary art, was deeply inspired by Odunpazari and its inhabitants, who are represented as one of five interwoven strands along with the four elements: earth, water, air, fire.
Renovating an ancient Japanese craft, the work was made entirely from recycled ‘Tiger Bamboo’ that’s unique to one mountain in Kochi, Japan. Idil Tabanca, Chairperson and Creative Director of OMM, said: “The opening of OMM marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration and innovation in the university city of Eskişehir.
“We are opening up the doors of the iconic new building to create an institution that will be a stepping stone for young artists. I don’t see OMM as a museum – it’s a platform, a bridge, for young creatives to have their voices heard.”
OMM’s ambitious exhibition programme opened with ‘Vuslat’, curated by Turkish curator Haldun Dostoğlu, which features a selection of over 100 works by 60 leading artists predominantly from Turkey.
‘Vuslat’, which loosely translates as ‘The Union’, was inspired by three scenes of union: Eskişehir gains its first private modern art museum; Erol Tabanca fulfils his dream of sharing his collection with the public, and the collection – much of which has been behind closed doors for years – is showcased in its entirety for the first time.
Split over three floors, the new museum has a variety of exhibition spaces that will house the permanent collection and host a programme of multidisciplinary exhibitions – many of which will be produced in collaboration with leading curators and creatives.
The exhibition programme will be complemented by a dynamic public programme, offering seminars, artist talks and workshops.
“We were deeply inspired by the history, culture, people and streetscape of Odunpazari, and we wanted the building to resonate on many levels.
“We hope that the museum will breathe new life into Eskişehir and become a central and inviting meeting point for the city.
“I hope visitors will feel excited and comfortable and that the museum will be more than just a place to enjoy the art. I hope they will sense the connection to the history and the memory of the place that links to the future,” concluded Ikeguchi.