#131 Reality Check


B12_#131 // Rehearsing Realities // Elif Ongut

CONTEXT: Old Imperial Ottoman Bank Vault


Imperial Ottoman Bank Headquarters building designed by French architect Alexandre Vallaury was completed in 1892.

In 2009, located at the heart of Old Town Istanbul, this building re-opened its doors to the public, renovated and rebranded as an art & research institute named SALT. I came across this institution in 2010, while writing my IB extended essay. From the street, the grandiose entrance with heavy doors didn’t seem too inviting but I took the leap, as I walked up the stairs the building began to reveal itself with all its grandeur, I felt like I discovered an oasis in the middle of Istanbul and made my way into the library…

It has been ten years since my first visit to SALT. I have graduated and moved back to my hometown, Istanbul and I spend couple of days a week in this building, working in the basement library, which consists of a door leading into the old Imperial Ottoman Bank’s vault.

This brief reminded me of my reality, my daily life and made me think of where I am right now. Then I got this uncanny feeling, stopped for a second, turned around only to realise that I am sitting right beside the Ottoman Imperial Bank’s vault. Then I couldn’t help but wonder, in spaces/architectures that we spend so much of our daily lives in, do we sometimes take them for granted? Over the years, these spaces/ architectures shape the person we are today. So my entry for ‘Rehersing Realities’ is actually a reality check, a time machine to remind me of the history and architectural significance of this building. It forms an unlikely association between a bank vault and a theatre, creating a time-machine in the form of motion pictures, screening the last half-century of a declining Empire.


Elif Öngüt is an Architecture Graduate from The University of Edinburgh (ESALA)