Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM), one of the central landmarks of Istanbul, is reopening after 13 years, 4 months, and 28 days. AKM was closed on May 31, 2008, for ‘refurbishment,’ and was demolished in 2018, after being left to rot for a long time, and then the reconstruction started.

During the time that AKM was closed, there have been talks on the name of Atatürk Cultural Centre, and it was implied that it might be changed. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made contradictory statements about the name; On February 26, he said “I don't call Atatürk Cultural Center anymore” and used the term “Opera Building”, for the building. On March 24, he indicated that the name will be changed, saying, “Formerly AKM, that is, Atatürk Cultural Center, is about to be finished…”. On April 7, Erdogan said unequivocally and clearly, “I hope we will open the new Atatürk Cultural Center on October 29,” and ended the discussion he had started. Erdoğan uses the name Atatürk Cultural Center in his recent statements as well.


Atatürk Cultural Center, which took 23 years to build, 8 years to build after the fire, and 13 years to rebuild, spent 44 years of its 80-year history either under construction or closed. The foundation of AKM was laid on October 29, 1946, after WWII ended. It was announced that the building, which costs 8 million Turkish Liras, would be put into service in 1953. The construction took a long time when the Istanbul Municipality fell short of budget. Architect Hayati Tabanlıoğlu took over the construction of AKM in 1956, whose project was modified three times, and it was opened on April 12, 1969, as a versatile cultural center including cinema, concert hall, and art gallery.

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AKM, opening after a construction process lasting 23 years, burned down on November 27, 1970, while Arthur Miller's The Crucible was being staged. The roof of AKM was collapsed and the building was severely damaged from the fire. After waiting for 8 years to be renovated, architect Hayati Tabanlıoğlu’s project was completed on October 6, 1978, and the building was opened as Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM). AKM had been at the center of Istanbul’s cultural life, and it was declared an “Urban Protected Area” and “Registered Cultural Heritage” on November 1, 1999.

In 2005, its “demolition” was brought to the agenda by the then Minister of Culture and Tourism Atilla Koç. Thanks to the artists’ objections and reactions, the suggestion to demolish the building was abandoned. However, 3 years later, on May 31, 2008, all activities in Atatürk Cultural Center were terminated, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism de facto closed the building. In 2009, Hayati Tabanlıoğlu’s son, architect Murat Tabanlıoğlu, was assigned for the restoration.


The building was scheduled to open on October 29, 2013, Republic Day; however, the Ministry of Culture did not comply with this restoration protocol and stopped the construction. 

During the Gezi protests, it became one of the symbols of the resistance. The building, which was left to its fate for a long time, started to be demolished on February 13, 2018. The demolition of the building has begun with the aim of constructing the “New Atatürk Cultural Center”. The foundation of the new AKM was laid by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on February 10, 2019.

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