February 7, 2020

Emre Arolat Architecture Takes the Museum Hotel in Southern Turkey Back to the Future

Emre Arolat has always been intrigued by architecture’s potential to “integrate, overlay, and absorb” the traces of history on a given site. The co-founder, with Gonca Pasolar, of Emre Arolat Architecture, which has countless historical-renovation and hospitality projects in its portfolio, as well as a RIBA International Prize and an Aga Kahn Award for Architecture to its credit, has rarely had an opportunity to throw together past and present as dramatically as he did in the Museum Hotel in Antakya, Turkey, however.

Below the lobby terrace at the Museum Hotel in Antakya, Turkey, by Emre Arolat Architecture, an excavated Pegasus mosaic dates to the 2nd or 3rd century. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.

The facility suspends a boxy 199-room luxury hotel over a sprawling 370,000-square-foot archaeological-dig-turned-museum that spans 13 civilizations and includes several dazzling Roman-era mosaics. “I was fascinated by the memories stored in that endless-looking landscape of remnants,” says the architect, whose Istanbul office (he also has outposts in London and New York) designed both the hotel and the museum. “In this case, I had the privilege to literally make the layers visible to the beholder’s eye.” 

Prefabricated plastered laminate–clad modules forming guest rooms are stacked in a steel superstructure. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.

“The remains shaped every aspect of the design.”

The project began when initial excavations on the site for a Hilton hotel turned up an exquisite 2nd-century marble statuette of Eros. Instead of scrapping the project or forging ahead with construction, as many builders do in relic-laden Antakya—a modern city near the Syrian border built on top of more than two millenniums of history—local investor Necmi Asfuroglu decided to launch a more massive excavation that soon began to yield more extraordinary finds. The next year, he engaged EAA to bring together two rarely integrated functions, a museum (fittingly the Necmi Asfuroglu Archaeology Museum) and a hotel (the former financially enabled by the latter). 

The module exteriors are also plastered. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.

The remains shaped every aspect of the design. Holes for 66 steel-composite columns that form the superstructure of the mod­ular design were hand-dug wherever an open spot could be found, with the structural system redesigned each time a new mosaic popped up. Prefabricated plastered laminate modules were lifted  in (one to three per guest room) and linked with open-air bridges and walkways because heavy machinery could not be used on-site. The dialogue between past and present was key conceptually, too. “There’s an objet trouvé character to it,” Arolat says. “The presence of the architectural space helps the artifacts develop a special aura, like a jewel.” 

Keep scrolling to view more images of the Museum Hotel >

Teak veneer morphs into Marmara marble in a private Turkish bath. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
A communal Turkish bath includes a heated marble slab. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
This detail is of the Pegasus mosaic. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
Custom wallpaper in a guest room replicates one of the site’s most important found relics, a floor mosaic that dates to the 5th century. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
A worker restores tiles. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
The lobby lounge, furnished with Rodolfo Dordoni sofas, overlooks a Roman-era floor mosaic, once a public meeting place. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
The dining pavilion stands above ancient Roman baths. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
The opposite side of the lobby lounge provides a view of another marble mosaic. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
A glazed pavilion contains the only interior part of the Necmi Asfuroglu Archaeology Museum. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.
The hotel and museum have a canopy but no facade, allowing air to circulate throughout. Photography by Emre Dörter/Photofoyer.

Project Team: Nodus Engineering: Structural Engineer. Promet: Stonework. ASF Hotel & Tourism: General Contractor.

Product Sources: Kartela-Designo Contracts: Wallpaper (Guest Room). Alya Ticaret through Sofaline: Leather Paneling. Bahar Aydinlatma: Pendant Fixtures, Table Lamp. Barem: LEDs. Kettal: Sofas (Lobby). Lunica Through IKS Distic.: Cocktail Tables. Global Warehouse: Chairs. Throughout: Lotus: Laminate Cladding. ECA through Yeni Ocak Yapi: Sink Fittings. Jotun: Girders, Metallic Paint, Composite Columns, Roof Cladding. Reynaers; Sisecam through Nasakoma: Glazing, Aluminum Cladding.

> See more from the February 2020 issue of Interior Design

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