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Check out the Chockablock bar at 100% Design

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Azman Architects’ 60m-long bar is the focus of the International Pavilion at this year’s 100% Design, says Rory Olcayto

At 100% Design this week, Turkishceramics is hosting a couple of events in the International Pavilion at Earls Court. The first, on the 18th, is Eric Parry in conversation (with me), where we’ll discuss his use of ceramics on projects including the Holburne Museum in Bath and the recently completed One Eagle Place. The second, on the 19th, is a panel discussion on Contemporary Turkish architecture and design.

If you’re visiting Earls Court, take time to catch ‘Chockablock’, a ceramic installation that has a bar, meeting areas, and an event space for the International Pavilion, and has been designed for Turkishceramics by London architect Ferhan Azman, the founder of Azman Architects.

Azman’s design in Earls Court, fronted by 7m-high columns, is a 60m-long bar covered with textured tiles - in black, bronze, green, red and blue - and showcases the sponsor’s ceramic products.

Azman is the architect in The Handmade House, an interesting book by journalist Geraldine Bedell, described on the dust jacket as ‘one family’s ambitious and inept attempt to build the perfect home’. Despite the travails, ‘it didn’t occur to them that the architects would always be right’ the dust jacket adds, the house, Aberdeen Lane, was shortlisted for the Manser Medal and an AJ First New Build nomination in 2003 (AJ 04.09.03).

The Handmade House is well worth a read, and far more insightful on client-architect relations than a season of Grand Designs. It’s full of interesting details, too, about the architects themselves. We learn, for example, that Azman was brought up in Bursa in north-west Anatolia and, unlike so many other architects, didn’t spend her childhood looking at buildings, thinking instead she would be a journalist. Her father, an intellectual, was the spit of Jean-Luc Godard, read her Chekhov at bedtime, and ran the Cinematheque in Bursa. The young Azman, steeped in European cinema, saw Vittorio de Sica’s Bicycle Thieves when she was seven.

When she designed Aberdeen Lane, Azman worked with Joyce Owens (the firm was called Azman Owens) and together they scooped a number of trendy clients. They designed fashion legend Isabella Blow’s house, a shop for Alexander McQueen and the Vivienne Westwood V&A show.


Another client was London Mayor Boris Johnson, when he was editor of The Spectator. As Bedell, who is married to former Tony Blair adviser Charles Leadbeater, writes in her book, ‘[Azman and Owens] were always winding us up about who would need more metres of bookshelves, us or the Johnsons. In the end we had 65 metres, to, I believe the Johnson’s 68.’

Bedell refers to Azman’s childhood stomping ground of Bursa as a ‘town in Turkey we hadn’t heard of’, although it is more of a city, with a population bobbing around the two million mark.

It was also the capital of the Ottoman Empire before Constantinople was taken in 1453, home to fine Sultanic monuments, as well the 20-dome Ulu Cami, one of the largest mosques in Turkey and a hybrid of late Seljuk and early Ottoman styles.

Bursa is not so far from Iznik, the legendary centre of Anatolian ceramic manufacture. Its high point was the 16th century, the golden age of Ottoman art and architecture, and it is of this tradition (pictured) that Turkishceramics is rightly proud.

Unlike Azman, I did spend my childhood looking at buildings, including those in Bursa and Iznik, during holidays there with my parents in the 1980s. And, while I did think I would be an architect one day, pacing up and down the interior of Bursa’s famous 20-dome mosque, and through the Roman gateway in ancient Nicaea (Iznik’s classical name) those formative years, instead, led me to a career in journalism.


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