The Naturalness of Architecture

Between tradition and contemporary technology

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In this interview, architect Han Tümertekin talks about the process of designing and constructing an organic olive oil factory, which is located in the town of Bademli, Turkey on a site overlooking the Aegean Sea.

How did you determine the site for the project?

The clients’ main objective was to produce olive oil without using any mechanical intervention. So no pumping and no machinery, we were only allowed to use gravity as a tool. This decision meant that the location of the factory within the land became crucial. So I spent an entire day walking around the site searching for the best place, which was exhausting but also inspiring. My intention was to find an area where the entire production process could be accomodated. Where all the olives could be easily delivered, and where gravity would help to produce the oil and then collect it from the level below where the bottling and labeling would be done.

Could you elaborate on the complicity between you and the clients?

I had already designed a house for the same clients in Alaçatı, in Istanbul and also on the site where the factory is built, hence we knew each other for a long time and I was very familiar with their approach. Regarding the program, in addition to the production area, the brief included a public area for the shop and a private area for the guest house, and our intention was to create a site plan that generated a gradual transition between these spaces. The scheme is organized around a series of open and semi-open spaces protected by a large copper roof that provides shade and climate control, and which is the most important element of the project.

Conceptual sketches by Han Tümertekin.
Conceptual sketches by architect Han Tümertekin. Image courtesy Mimarlar ve Han Tümertekin

How did you deal with the seeming contradiction between designing a factory and conserving the landscape?

As architects, no matter where we are working we always have an obsession to anchor the building in its specific location. This case was not an exception and so we tried to understand and analyze the site in order to decide and choose our design priorities. In order to fulfill the decisions we made, our intention was to make minimum interventions on the site.

The design concept and strategy was based on the question of how could we embed an industrial building into the landscape rather than impose it upon the landscape. That is, how could we construct the building without touching or damaging the existing vegetation and the olive trees. In addition, it was necessary to keep in mind that once it is bottled, the olive oil must be transported from the building in trucks, so the design of the section was important in order to ensure convenient access. Coming to terms with the topography was a significant consideration so that this could happen without disturbing the landscape.

Conservation of the vegetation was a fundamental requirement for Han Tümertekin.
Conservation of the vegetation and the topography was a fundamental requirement for Han Tümertekin. Photo © Cemal Emden

Given the requirements to conserve the site conditions, how was the construction resolved?

Once the site was determined we started thinking about the materials and construction methods. We choose galvanized steel, exposed concrete and natural stone, all of which contribute to low maintenance of the building. We decided that we would use the local labor force as the builders and in the process work with them on improving their construction techniques and skills. So the steel framework was fabricated in Istanbul and transported to Bademli where it was filled in with stone by the local company.

With the construction of the factory, the project came full circle. It started with the requirements of the clients to conserve both the production of olive oil in the most conventional and healthy way possible, as well as to conserve the place and the olive trees themselves. In this sense, both the production system and the construction system come together at the intersection between tradition and contemporary technology.


This interview was carried out by Diane Gray in collaboration with Selin Uysal.


Main image: The site of the olive oil factory overlooks the Aegean Sea. Photo © Cemal Emden

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