Wednesday, 8 December 2010

What is called ‘culture’ is to able to be observed everywhere people live. Both urban and rural space involve the signs and connatations of culture they belong to. In the spaces which have a historical background , one of the most attractive and informative signs of space is ‘buildings’. Each building has a cultural background . Its decoration and the materials which are used for building inform about religious beliefs, traditions, experiences, physical environments, and economical opprtunities of the society. So what is needed is the ability to read the signs and connotations. This paper analyzes the Minerva-Han in the Banks Street. At first it was built as a Greek Bank with the aim of financial support for Greeks in the Ottoman Empire during First World War. Then the building was used as an ‘insurance agency’ by different companies. Nowadays Minerva-Han is a museum of Sabancı University. Minerva-Han refLects the values and economical power relation of society which change for one hundred year.

Minerva Han, a building located on the corner of Banks (Voyvoda) Street and High Pavement ramp is now the culture center of Sabancı University. It had served for banks and insurance company for around eighty years. It was used as Athena Bank for the first time. It was not certain but according to some rumours the first owner of Minerva Han is a rich Greek man who lived in Ottoman Empire. His aim is to provide finance for the Greeks who live in the empire. Minerva Han, a landmark historical building has been used for different targets during the time after 1913 it was built. In 1930, an admiration of Deutsch appeared in the country, and so Athena Bank suddenly turned into Deutsch Bank. It can be a reason for being used as a bank that the building took place in the centre of Ottoman economy. Istanbul was the capital city of the empire and so the centre of local and international trade and business. After the Second World War, this admiration of Deutsch disappeared and the building is used by insurance companies. Between 1950 and 1980 Doğan Insurance used the building, and then until 1993 Ak Insurance used it as its head office for years. In 1997, Güler Sabancı and the academic staff who were then working on Sabancı University made a visit to Minerva Han and decided to move in and use this building as communication centre of the Sabancı University. Nowadays Minerva Han is used by Sabancı University as a culture centre of the university and an annex and a venue for conferences and cultural activities. In fact the appearance of the building is so suitable to be a culture centre. It was influenced by Italian architecture. The building took its name from a goddess of Roman Mythology who represented wisdom and art. It has Venus statues which carrying fruit baskets on the second floor and a woman portrait sculpture with a helmet on the entrance floor that it is highly probable that it represents the goddess Minerva. All these features help it to be an attractive art centre. While it was used as a bank, its lodge was used as a vault. But now its lodge is used as art gallery in the name “Kasa Gallery” while its other floors are used for conference and cultural activities. The gallery, consisting of three successive rooms has a spatial dominance which is sometimes difficult to get over and which cannot be neutralized by its white walls. Hence, a number of artists have produced exhibitions or works originating from these characteristic components of the space. For the sake of Minerva Han Sabancı University can share its students’ cultural and artistic studies with the public.

Minerva Han which is on the right pavement of The Banks Streets has small,blue and and a circular facade.It was built on between the years of 1911 and 1913.Minerva which gave the han its name,is the name of a mythological god of art and wisdom,Athena, in the Roman mythology.At the same time it was the pioner of reinforced concrete buildings in that era.This building has a basement,5 intermediate stories and a top floor.As the building is on the corner of the street,the entrance was put on the corner also.The facade of the building was embellished with small figurines.On the entrance of it there is a woman bust which represents Minerva with her helmet.On the 2nd floor there are 2 baby figures who carries fruit basket on their laps.Most probably they represent fertility ; that means fertility in terms of money as there was a bank once upon a time.These baby figurines as a kind of different sign connotes the power of money.In addition to these figurines, on the 5th floor there are a pair of snake embossment which is nested in each other .These snakes symbolize the field of physic.Not only the exterior but also the interior of the han is astonishing.The 1st excitement was created with its big and glorious door.When we enter the han through this door,we saw a silhouette which wasn’ t degenerated despite the time which had passed.After we passed through the detector,we walked under the magnificience of a ceiling which was gilded with gold dust.We didn’t take the photos of this ceiling but the perfect atmosphere of it attact us totally.Also the people who came here for an exhibition of İstanbul University shared the same feeling with us certainly.As we went down stairs we saw a kind of basement floor which were not restorated at all.We encountered with a kind of safe floor;the money was saved here and after a time later and as now on it has been used as the exhibition room.We saw on the walls some plazma televisions.Some visual images are displayed here.For example there was a television in which gestures and facial expressions of a man was changing spontaneously.It was very interesting of such a building has been used nowadays as an art gallery.It has passed a number of processes by now and we will see these processes now.

The Banks Street which is also known as “Voyvoda Street” had been the financial center of the Ottoman Empire with the banks;First it was Thessaloniki Bank (Banque de Salonique),secondly the German Bank (Deutsche Bank),then the Russian Foreign Trade Bank (Banque pour le Commerce Russe étranger), after that Athens Bank (Banque d'Athènes) and finally its function changed and it became just a culture center of Sabancı University. Today, banks and dealers in electric supplies are side by side in the Banks Street which clearly shows the significant changes. Minerva Han has an importance as being the first building in the street. It reflects the historical background of the street as well as other buildings in the area. Additionally,it is interesting that there is a little stand selling meatballs across to it. It is no doubt that this shows the cultural modifications through time on both in the buildings and on the surrounding area. In the past, the Banks Street was a place that mostly belongs to elite and rich people however now, many people from different social classes can be seen there .The street changes like a living thing as the time, people and power relationships changes.

In conclusion,with the combination of its fascinating architecture and historical background Minerva-Han is the most attractive building of the Banks Street. It is almost a hundred-year-old building which had served as a bank for about eighty years, then an insurance agency and now is serving as a museum of Sabancı University.The appearance of the building is suitable enough to be a culture center. The figurines on the surface of the building greet Istanbul with a blink that sometimes belongs to an elf and sometimes to a child yearning for the past. Searching the history of the building and the importance of it at that times, it is easily understood that Minerva-Han reflects the values and economical power relation of society that changes throughout the ages.

Minerva Han / Bankalar Caddesi

Büşra Aslıvar
Özlem Toplu
Samet Efe
Serap Çelik
Emel İbiş
Gökçe Karahacıoğlu

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