Istanbul Museum of Modern Art's new buidling ; Istanbul Museum of Modern Art's new buidling ;

Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, Istanbul

Engineering Istanbul’s Museum of Modern Art: bringing Renzo Piano’s design to life

Standing on the western bank of the Bosphorus, the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art is home to Türkiye's first contemporary art gallery, with a large collection of local and international art. Sponsored by Eczacıbaşı Group, the museum is coming of age as it upgrades its digs from an old maritime converted warehouse in historic Beyoğlu into a purpose-built museum designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW).

Built on its current waterfront plot in Karaköy, the redevelopment of Istanbul Modern is part of the major Galataport regeneration of the city’s historic dock, including a new cruise-ship terminal with a huge underground complex including retail and restaurant facilities, a hotel and parking space. As one of the main locations of the Istanbul Biennial, the sleek yet subtle design of the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art will help reinforce the city’s image as a major cultural capital.

As the local architect and engineer for this flagship project, Arup was appointed by the Museum’s patron Eczacıbaşı Group, to deliver the detailed elements of the RPBW design in a complex site. Our teams in London and Istanbul worked together to provide multi-disciplinary engineering design as well as specialist services including detailed lighting and acoustics design, as well as façade and cost consultancy.

Project Summary

15,740 building

3,300exhibition area


With a simple, pared-back outline, the volume evokes a series of stacked shipping containers: the cantilevered top floor is covered by concave aluminium panels, creating a shimmering, iridescent envelope evocative of fish scales. With a total footprint of 15,000 m2, the museum will serve not only as a hub of contemporary art but as a meeting place for the community and the city. 

Upon arrival, the ‘transparent’ ground floor offers views to the waterfront promenade – and includes public spaces like a café, bookshop, library and information points. The first floor will accommodate photo and pop-up galleries, multipurpose rooms and staff offices; while the second floor will house the permanent collection and temporary shows with 3,300 m2 of exhibition space.



Transparent but resilient: engineering the ground floor

Delivering on RPBW's brief to create a ‘see-through’ ground floor posed several engineering challenges, given the museum is located in an active seismic area. Moving away from traditional, ‘heavy’ engineering solutions like shear walls and large columns, our engineers in London and Istanbul developed a high-performing composite frame system with steel cross bracings.

Anchoring the building to the ground, the slender 9-metre-high columns are 60cm in diameter, with an internal profile that enhance the capacity of the section and ensures safety by transferring the loads to the braced frames in case of a quake.

Trusted local partner for a complex site

Beyond the seismic resilience issues, the site ownership also made this a complex project to deliver. Our engineers and architects worked closely with Galataport – a project developed by Doğuş Group and Bilgili Holding, to process the permits for the overall building structure, including the new museum above ground; and worked with Galataport authorities to deliver the earthquake-proof pile design and foundations for the building’s two underground floors.

Working as an executive architect from project inception, Arup’s team was a trusted local partner to RPBW’s studio, helping to detail and localise the project, offering author supervision services, material approvals, as well as reviewing shop drawings and attending site meetings.

Building, river promenade and people walking Building, river promenade and people walking
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art offers a waterfront view of the Bosphorus. ©RPBW

Sustainability and user-comfort: key design drivers

User comfort and sustainability permeate the design of Istanbul Modern, including basic energy efficiency elements such as triple glazed windows to deflect external heat and the introduction of renewable energy supply, such as photovoltaic panels, generating about 7% of the building’s electricity. To deliver a comfortable user experience, the museum’s galleries are equipped with a variable air volume system (VAV) and building management system (BMS) which ensure an energy-efficient operation. 

A centralised sea water plant serves the entire complex – including Galataport – acting as both the cooling and heating systems of Istanbul Modern, complying with the energy efficiency requirements of local and European codes. This renewable energy source eradicates the use of air-cooled chillers and reduces the carbon footprint of the building as well as considerably reducing water consumption. 

Our engineers worked together with Galataport’s LEED consultant to submit a joint proposal for Galataport and Istanbul Modern, targeting a LEED Gold certification.