Ataturk’s Architect: Seyfi ARKAN

Seyfi Arkan, born in Üsküdar in 1904, is a member of the Gelenbevi family, trained by notable mathematicians, and one of the most influential modernist architects of the Republican Era. Arkan continued his study at Sanâyi-i Nefîse Mektebi after graduating from Galatasaray High School (Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University). He was taught by people like Prof. Vedat Tek and Guilio Mongeri. Arkan, a representative of the national architectural movement who attended Prof. Vedat Tek’s workshop, graduated from the academy with a top degree in 1927.

He was sent to Germany for study after winning the Çanakkale Martyrs Monument Competition, which was organized among the top grade students by the Ministry of National Education. He relocated to Berlin after spending some time in France. He pursued his study at Charlottenburg Technical University’s Architecture Department and Berlin Higher Technical School. As a student of the great expressionist architect Ord. Prof. Hans Poelzig, Arkan had the opportunity to work in Poelzig’s private workshop. Arkan’s professional life was shaped by his time abroad, which allowed him to develop his architectural style.

Arkan signed several various projects between 1930 and 1940, which was the most active phase of his professional architectural life, and these structures maintained a modern line in the Western sense.

Although there are few papers and studies on Arkan, possibly the earliest contemporary architectural model of Turkey with his plain style and richness of planning and design process and substances that stand out in his structures, his most well-known aspect would be his strong relationship with Atatürk.

Because Atatürk was impressed with the Çankaya Mansion’s construction and entrusted Arkan with the additional projects, he became known as Atatürk’s Architect. Arkan designed the Bauhaus-style Florya Atatürk Marine Mansion, Çankaya Mansion, and Aynalı Mansion after collaborating with Hanz Poelzig in Germany. He also designed the Foreign Office, the Municipal Bank’s General Directorate, the Iller Bank, and the Iranian Embassy in Tehran.

Arkan has signed the Republic period’s most symbolic monuments with his true architectural sense. Seyfi Arkan is the first authentic Turkish modernist, emphasizing universality over the locality. The authorities acknowledge that his architecture has an internationally recognized language, that it is consistent, and that it is time-independent.