The team at Sia & Moore is far from ordinary, and they can offer strong and creative solutions. Because they follow developing trends and contemporary architectural movements their projects and interior designs are timeless, but they also enjoy pushing the boundaries with their custom personal designs. Banu Altay is Sia & Moore’s founder, and is an architect that has won multiple awards with her designs and projects. After graduating from İTÜ School of Architecture, she gained invaluable experience from working in different industries for many years. Her next chapter in life began in 2009 with Sia & Moore when the firm undertook the renovation project of 18 villas that belonged to the Gaddafi family who ruled Libya then. What followed were high-level projects in Northern Iraq, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates and Qatar; and upon becoming the leading fit-out constructor of all public areas in Mondrian Doha Hotel in Qatar in 2014, Sia & Moore’s Qatar office was founded.
What does “Spirituality in Design” mean? How is this style practiced architecturally?
Spaces are the most important elements that shape human life. During the process of design, it is not enough to simply take the needs of those who’ll use the space as a reference point; their beliefs and spiritual values should also be considered. We are very lucky to be working in the Middle East. All the societies here are quiet similar to each other in terms of beliefs, spiritual values and family culture. For our architectural and interior designs, especially for luxury residences, majlis and palace projects it is essential that we establish a close working relationship with our client so that the priorities, spiritual values and the privacy of the family who will use the space be protected. To tell the truth, creating new projects ensures that we are in constant development. We always need to be doing research so that we can base our designs on the right and current themes. Our most spiritual project so far was a majlis building that we have designed as a luxury tent concept. This was a comprehensive turnkey project including architecture, interior decoration design and implementation, and the structure is only going to be used for religious festivities. Our principle is to prioritize works of traditional Turkish arts and crafts in our projects abroad, and that is what we did in that one as well.
The decorative elements that add spiritual value to our projects are;
The strict use of basmala-inscribed works in entrance halls and reception areas, works of calligraphy and gilding that is chosen in line with the decorative style of the space, works of Turkish artists are our priorities. We also use handcrafted Turkish tile art with Ottoman and Seljukian geometric motifs on the walls and floors. Another valuable Turkish art is mother-of-pearl craftsmanship, and we use wooden furnitures, coffee tables, mirrors, sideboards, Quran reading desks that are handcrafted and adorned with mother-of-pearl. Other examples are decorative objects made of brass and copper, the hand of Fatima and ensigns, and finely embroidered velvet curtains. We can hang the curtains, especially the ones that are decorated with verses from the Quran, along the surrounding walls so that a complete verse or section can be read in its entirety. We even reproduced the cloth that covers the Kaaba with the exact embroidery and placed it in the entrance in one of our projects.
In addition to those, one of our most preferred decorative cues is shades of green, the color of peace, or its combinations with other colors. I firmly believe that when we infuse our designs with our history and use works of art that represent our culture, we heighten the sense of spirituality and energy in those spaces. Just imagine glazed tiles and hand-woven carpets on the floor, handcrafted wooden furnitures on top, handcrafted tables with mother-of-pearl inlays, motif-embroidered pillows and curtains, handcrafted brass chandeliers, calligraphy and gilding on the walls, mural ornamentations (kalemişi) on the ceiling… How could anyone not find peace in a space like this, surrounded by all that labor?
You also have your signature on the palaces and private mansions of elder statesmen in foreign countries. What do they demand and expect from you?
It is quite easy to work with high-level businessmen and families of state officials from Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Iraq because they feel an affinity towards Turkish culture. However, one main difference is that they require larger areas and living spaces of many, many m2s. We construct spaces that we are not used to building in residences such as gendered majlises, large masjids, movie theaters, hairdressers. One of our projects had a construction site of 15.000m2 and had plans for 20 butler’s rooms.