After his education in London, Surrey and Los Angeles, Emir Uras established his design company URAStudio in 1995 in Los Angeles. Later, he moved his office to Istanbul in 1998 and put his signature on the interior designs of offices from many beloved brands such as Cashmere in Love, Ogilvy, and MAC. We talked about the design perspective of this successful architect who designed the podium of Milan EXPO in Turkey which ended last October.
How would you define your architectural style?
Humane, artistic, poetic….
Is it fair to talk about a common language or touch in all your projects?
We listen to our customers and their needs and try to respond accordingly. Of course the forms and materials we use create a common language. Contemporary, clean and clear…
You say “Our studio designs buildings, spaces, furniture and products by searching for the sacred language of form.” Can you tell us more about this statement, what is “the sacred language of form?”
Form is language; it’s possible to express it by using it as an alphabet, writing words, sentences, stories. Form can even be the only means of communication in the world. When the communication is that direct, then the exchange in a sacred field begins, like it was in the first ages.
What do you promise your customers?
To do the best that I can and my honesty…
You designed the store of the rising brand Cashmere in Love in Bebek. How did this collaboration happen?
We knew their owners Esra and Tolga. They came to us very sure about what they wanted and gave us a meticulous brief. Then we designed the sense they wanted to create. Sense design is an additional concept to space design. As the feeling gets deeper, so does the sensation and with small touches one can get strong results. I think Cashmere in Love store reflects this.
From ticket offices to EXPO podiums, from hotels to residences you put your signature on many different projects…
EXPO wasn’t actually project which we had complete control over. It was brought to us by DDF. Since Turkey joined later on, we designed a shell which was quick to build. The Ministry of Economy inserted whatever they wanted in this shell through DDF. Even though the result turned out to be a bit complicated and eclectic, it earned recognition from the users. Naturally we also got positive feedback from other architects. However, in order for such an important project to thoroughly represent first Turkey and then us, we needed more time. We designed it in 12 days, it was built in 30… But of course it was a very valuable experience for us.
When you compare it to the rising trends in the world, how do you evaluate the architectural tendency in Istanbul?
We are still fulfilling our needs and hunger, we haven’t reached the trends yet. I find the mentioned and applied trends superficial and not satisfactory enough.
What projects do you enjoy the most working on?
Small, interesting and authentic. For example, we designed a lighting system for the Italian glass company Venini, we launched it in Frankfurt in March, and we will be in Milano in April. ‘Venini Bloss Lamp’ was a small project and it took nearly one and a half years. It’s a 120 year old company and works with selected designers. It was flattering to be side by side with names like Geo Ponti, Ettore Sotsass and Tadao Ando. Also the Publicis offices, the Soultrain gym, the Boho Hotel in Bodrum and a residential project in Uskumruköy were projects we enjoyed a lot.
Along with architecture, you are also interested in art, you have some works represented by C.A.M Gallery. Can you tell us about them? Were you always interested in that or was this a hobby developed later?
Almost all of my works are the records of expressions with different materials and techniques that came out while I was looking at an empty background. My recent works are usually big digital prints from 3D programs. I began to work with C.A.M. gallery in 1999. Their owner Sevil and Levent are both very good friends and have supported me and gave a chance to exhibit. Other than our exhibitions, we also joined some other art expo’s which included Basel and Marrakech. I’ve been working independently for the last two years. My latest exhibition ‘Prior’ is in Krampf Galeri in Karaköy. I can define it as the retrospective of 10 years.
The architectural details in your artwork are very noticable. What are your other inspirations for these pieces?
Actually I am inspired by everything but music and nature come first. I get inspired from things that touch and feed my soul. Somehow the names I look up to or teach me something are mostly musicians. From Miles Davis to Jimmy Hendrix, from Pink Floyd to Steely Dan… I learned different things from mottled expressions and I still do. As I listen to “So What” from Miles Davis everything falls into place, I find out how to formulate my next project. Sometimes I experiment with sketches and digital prints.
What are your favorite areas and buildings in Istanbul?
Yeniköy, Bebek, Arnavutköy; the mansions and structures of Mimar Sinan. I like the authenticity, specificity of it all. I can see and hear the message behind them. The purity of chasteness does me good. All of the Mimar Sinan buildings are a spiritual teaching.
What are your upcoming projects?
A residential project in Uskumruköy, a house in Akyaka, a hotel in Bodrum, a 39 meter motor yacht and I hope a 3 house project in Los Angeles. Now we began two new projects in Bebek, one is a store and the other is a bakery and restaurant. Our 40 apartment project in Uskumru continues. Other than these I’m building a new house in Yeniköy for me and my family. And our product, lighting and furniture designs are continuing, next year we have a project of opening a store in London.