Mardin is a salient cultural and architectural cornerstone of Turkish heritage. The Mor Gabriel Monastery is considered one of the most characteristic structures in Mardin to date. Established toward the end of the 3rd century, it is situated on high ground about a twenty minutes car ride from the city center. Today, the Mor Gabriel Monastery is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. The design intent of the project is to emphasize the importance of topography as it relates to monastery life. On the same token, designing an additional structure that enhances the Mor Gabriel Monastery visitor experience was a balancing act mandating careful consideration to the structure’s historic context. Its’ minimal intervention seeks to establish a clear threshold for visitors as they circulate around the base of the monastery. The prolific use of local stone can be seen almost anywhere you look within Mardin’s cityscape. The architectural texture as such greatly inspired the design of the visitor center. The architectural term “IWAN” means “vaulted or domed space recessed from a central hall or court.” This design concept dates back to the Seljuk Era and is one of the most significant elements that denotes the city’s landmark architectural structures. The topography of the site complements the simple multi-staged housing courters with open terraces. The secluded site is located on the road leading to monastery. A steppe meadow surrounds the site in its entirety. The multi-elevated housing that gives way to wide-open terraces was a significant inspiration in designing the visitor center. Closed and semi-open spaces of the building and the landscape criteria were integrated in a way which placed the whole structure in a gradual ascending slope. The landscape weaves through the voids of the atrium, “IWAN” and the arcade of the building. Since there is no pedestrian access to the land, the parking lot entrance takes importance. The distance from the monastery to the parking lot was calculated and an entrance and tollbooth were planned according to visitor needs. The side entrance was planned in the south part of the land where there is easy access to restrooms and the gift shop. A cafe with a patio overlooking a picturesque view of Madin’s vast landscape leaves you in awe.
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