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Istanbul gets new opera house on the republic’s 98th anniversary

A new opera house is due to open on Istanbul's iconic Taksim square on Friday, in celebration of the 98th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish republic.

Istanbul, 29 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) — A new opera house is due to open on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim square on Friday, in celebration of the 98th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish republic.

In addition to the 2,500-seat opera house, the Atatürk Cultural Center — named after the republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk — also houses a cinema, libraries, cafes and restaurants. It was built to replace an older structure that was demolished in 2018.

With its glass façade, the new building recalls the architecture of the previous center. The spherical auditorium is dark red and is made up of 15,000 handmade ceramic tiles, and can be seen from the outside through the façade.

The new building was designed by architect Murat Tabanlıoğlu, the son of the architect Hayati Tabanlıoğlu who designed the previous structure.

The center, known as AKM, was originally built in 1969 as the Istanbul Culture Palace to represent a modern and secular Turkey. The center was later renovated and reopened in 1977 after a fire in 1970.

However, performances stalled in 2008 and the building fell into disuse. The foundations for the new building were laid in February 2019.

The building also became a symbol of the anti-government Gezi protests as it is located right next to Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Protests broke out there in 2013 after then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan planned to demolish the park and cultural center.

Demonstrators occupied the AKM at the time, opposing plans to demolish it. Erdoğan described the center as a symbol for the “marginal ideology” of the demonstrators.

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