The 2,500-seat opera house, due to open in early 2019, will be built on the site of the Ataturk Cultural Centre.

The project of an iconic opera house in Istanbul's teeming Taksim Square was announced on Monday.
The project of an iconic opera house in Istanbul's teeming Taksim Square was announced on Monday. (AA)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday launched a project to build a brand new opera house in Istanbul, saying the new building would be a symbol for the city. 

The 2,500-seat opera house, due to open in early 2019, will be built on the site of the Ataturk Cultural Centre (AKM) which has been unused for over a decade.

Erdogan said the cutting-edge opera house would give new life to Taksim Square in central Istanbul.

The project would be carried out by Murat Tabanlioglu, the son of one of the building’s first architects, Hayati Tabanlioglu.
The project would be carried out by Murat Tabanlioglu, the son of one of the building’s first architects, Hayati Tabanlioglu. (AA)

Backers of the project want the opera house to be as much as symbol of Istanbul as the Bolshoi Theatre is in Moscow or the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

"God willing it will become an honour and symbol for Istanbul and our country," Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul. 

The AKM, which for years has stood as an empty shell on Taksim Square, has had an unfortunate history.

It opened in 1969 but then closed almost immediately after a fire. It reopened in 1978, becoming the centre of Istanbul cultural life, but was then shuttered in 2008 for restoration that never took place.

The building is located at the eastern end of Istanbul's famous Taksim Square.
The building is located at the eastern end of Istanbul's famous Taksim Square. (AA)
This is the old version of the Ataturk Cultural Centre. It was initially designed as a theater building by French architect Auguste Perret.
This is the old version of the Ataturk Cultural Centre. It was initially designed as a theater building by French architect Auguste Perret. (AA)

But Erdogan said the resistance to the building's renewal was "not because of sensitivity to culture but ideological obsessions."

He added: "After protests, court cases and commotion, the path of science, intellect and rationality has prevailed."

"I know that the new AKM will benefit the most those who have sabotaged it for years."

The new cultural centre will have the capacity to welcome 2,500 people.
The new cultural centre will have the capacity to welcome 2,500 people. (AA)

He added Taksim would be fully pedestrianised with vehicle traffic passing underground, bringing a "new richness to the square."

In a signal the government does not want to be seen trampling over the past, the architect of the new building, Murat Tabanlioglu, is the son of Hayati Tabanlioglu, the architect of the original AKM.

The glass-covered modernist facade of the new building is also similar to the old edifice.

Giant screens will display shows outside the building.
Giant screens will display shows outside the building. (AA)

Opera houses are usually the places where rich elites go, "but this should change. They should be places where everyone can go," said Murat Tabanlioglu.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies