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Destined to Design

Destined to Design

In conversation with Vikas Bhadra, Yasemin Arpac and Sabahattin Emir, Founders of Ofist, an architecture and design practice based in Istanbul opine notions like form, function, structure might be useful clues to argue about, but they are not enough to explain architecture or design.

What is your idea of good design? What led you to select architecture as a profession in the first place?
Yasemin: To us, apart from the mandatory features like the usefulness, durability, and aesthetics, the smartest design with the least intervention as possible is a good design.

Emir: My involvement with materials and production led me to choose this profession.  

Yasemin: I was too young to remember now when I had decided to become an interior architect and that was probably just an appropriate decision totally by chance. 

Who are some of the architects you adore?
Yasemin: Usually designs so sleek and neat impress us.  Simple yet smart and well solved ideas.  Like Toyo Ito works for example.  On the other hand, we might fall in love with a colourful, lively Patricia Urquila product.  

What led to inception of your firm Ofist?
Emir: By coincidence we started working on a few freelance projects together and then decided that we can be a good design couple, fulfilling each other’s deficiencies.

Yasemin: We met each other while working in GAD architecture in the year 2000 and have been working together since then.

Which project according to you was among the first ones to put you in the hall of fame?
Emir: Karakoy Loft was probably the most popular project, especially for people who are not very familiar to design and architecture.  Stripcase might be the next popular one, I guess. But since we had worked in popular F&B projects in Istanbul like Nupera, Leyla Café, Cezayir Restaurant and etc. in the first years of our establishment, we became quite renowned in the design society. 

Post the client brief what do you do to adopt a design strategy which does not compromise your creative prowess whilst addressing your clients need? Yasemin: We are a bit lucky about clientele I guess.  We never really needed to compromise our creative prowess.  But when we face a hesitation about our design proposal, stepping back a bit and waiting for our client to feel and understand the need and correctness of the proposal works well.  

As an architect who has worked on numerous projects, what are some of the challenges you have witnessed in your profession so far? How do you address them?
Emir: The residential projects are more complicated and relative.  They are so personal and sometimes they don’t even need to be the correct design to fulfill the need of its user and satisfy. Therefore, every residential project has its own challenge. Hence, it’s exciting to deal with something new and surprising every time.  The balance in between this challenge and excitement leads to creativity. 

In a long-term practice, professionals are often defined by their affinities towards design strategies and materials, has it ever happened to you, something you believe will come to define you in the subsequent millenniums?
Emir: We don’t believe in being associated with a material or a method, since every project has its own circumstances, therefore demands its own rights and solutions.  You might find yourself dealing with and solving the most ‘unlikely you’ ideas and this might be the very correct way for your project.  

Yasemin: Apart from all this, we would be very proud if the observers would follow the notions such as practicality, smartness, honesty, environmentalism, etc. and relate the project to Ofist because of all these features. 

Is architecture much beyond form and function alone? Do you believe it is, how would you explain that?
Notions like form, function, structure might be useful clues to argue about, but they will not be enough to explain architecture or design.  As every other subject, we describe and portray to understand and explain architecture, but by doing that we bring a deadlock to this multi layered, and dimensional notion.  No matter how deeply we describe it, we may realize that these descriptions are not enough when thinking in terms of humans and time.

What are some of the projects which are close to your heart and why? Which are some of the recent projects you are working on?
Yasemin: Luckily, we have a lot of projects which as designers we feel satisfied and fulfilled in similar ways with our clients.  We evaluate ourselves as successful in this manner.  That’s why we love almost all our projects.  If we are to name one or two; the project Stripcase is like a little summary of our approach to design and architecture.  It’s a simple design idea and the implementation too is neat and precise.  

Emir: Recently we have been working on a five-story office building project; all its façades and interiors.  A sophisticated, urban garden duplex residential project.  Both in the heart of Istanbul.   A summer house in a perfectly preserved Mediterranean establishment from the 1970s in Datca, on the west coast of Turkey and the interiors of a 37m luxury yacht. 

Tell us something about the accolades you have won so far? 
Yasemin: So we had a few awards or mentions.  Some popular projects.  But the most satisfying complement for me personally is that we are creating very honest and real projects.  And if we have managed to do that, then it means that we can reflect who we really are and what we are actually creating.  That’s something precious to me and Emir.


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