LILA 2023 Winner in Schools and Playgrounds

Carve’s work in the historic Tophane Park is largely based on a curious object made of stone. It seems that with its contemporary appearance it questions its historic surroundings. It is a complex morphology that offers many different types of play. In Carve’s words, it comprises stimulating challenges for ‘sliding, stepping, climbing, lounging, crawling, performing, balancing’ and also invites other unforeseen means of interaction. All in one excellent exercise in shape and material. The jury praised the use of local craftsmanship. The shaping of the stone wouldn’t be possible in many other countries due to high expenses, which, essentially, makes it site-specific.

Furthermore, due to its sculptural quality, it doesn’t necessarily look like a playground. The design of the playground holds many situations with an abstract charge; there is a hole that can act as a door, and there is a clear distinction between being inside and outside, up and down, so children may see it as a fortress, a space-ship, a creature from another world …

The object’s context, everlasting material, contemporary shape, and its relation to the park and the trees offer enough contrasts and use interpretations that engage the imagination of children much more than conventional, catalogue-based playgrounds.

See all LILA recognitions or visit LILA website

site conditions

Galata port is an urban redevelopment project taking place in Istanbul aiming at transforming a previously inaccessible area within the Tophane district into an artistic and cultural core. As part of this project, Tophane Park offers a mix of historic landmarks, such as the 18th-century Ottoman-style Mahmud-Han fountain, and new developments including the Istanbul Modern Museum and the Resim Heykel Museum.
Galata port, a harbor development in the city center, is located at the Bosporus quai in the heart of Tophane and flanked by the hip and upcoming Karaköy neighborhood. The Galata port Mall, part of the development, features an underground customs office for the new cruise ship terminal.


In 2020, Carve was asked to design a play area in the historical Tophane Park. The exceptional setting, including a blend of ancient and contemporary structures such as the Ottoman baroque-style building, the Ottoman-style Mahmud-Han fountain and the modern museum and mall, quickly captivated and challenged our attention to create a playful as well as distinctive design. Our aim was to pay tribute to the peaceful atmosphere of the park and harmoniously connect the historical and new structures within it.

materials unveil the local history

By embracing the long and rich tradition of Turkish craftsmanship, Carve opted to integrate traditional stone carving and wood carpentry techniques into the design. The use of local materials such as hardstone and wood, along with sand from the Aegean shoreline, resulted in a harmonious material palette that perfectly blends with the surrounding structures.

a sculptural playscape

Inspired by the square shape of the nearby Tophane fountain’s footprint, we sculpted a dynamic and inviting play area that pays homage to both the fountain and the nickname of its patron: Mahmut I “The Hunchback.”
During the design process, the shape was stretched and deformed to adapt to the context and one of the original four corners was removed. The resulting configuration seems just escaped from the close-by Istanbul Modern museum and it is envisioned as a sculptural interaction among form, colour, materials, and body.

The playground consists of three areas that cater for different age groups. Each section embraces an inner sandy space where additional adventurous play elements are located.
This big sculptural object meant for playing offers several functionalities (sliding, stepping, climbing, lounging, crawling, performing, balancing), but none of them is clearly recognizable at first glimpse.
We wouldn’t be more delighted if children invent new and unexpected play opportunities for these dynamic shapes!

going beyond the ordinary

In designing this project, we broke away from the regular playground concept which relies on directive activities and limited interactions; instead, we created a multi-functional element that inspires play. Playing includes more than just specific activities or pieces of equipment. It’s about entering a new world, nourishing imagination and creativity, socializing, pushing oneself to new limits, and discovering the world around us.
Our unconventional approach resulted in a smooth sculptural object, attractive and playful for everyone -kids and adults- subtly recalling emerging ruins coming from the past, yet with a modern twist.

bridging techniques

To streamline the construction process and ensure the coherence of the final construction, we worked together with a local manufacturer to bring our vision to life. The manufacturer approached the task with a pragmatic and efficient method in order to ensure a coherent final result. During the design and engineering phases, we faced together multiple challenges. For instance, how to effectively build an extensive stone sculpture with many double curved surfaces and various finishes with an outstanding final result? The answer was found in the combination of some of the latest 3D digital techniques with skilled local craftsmanship.

public space first, a playground next

At Carve, we see play as a vital component in the public realm. We create environments for people of all ages, groups, and backgrounds. We find it most fascinating when public spaces facilitate various events, encourage user groups to interact, but also serve as a venue for experimentation.
The most special thing about Tophane park playground is the fact the surrounding public space continues through it. The playground is not a fenced-off area where parents are watching from distance, it is for everyone, open to those who are not afraid to get involved!

project data

Landscape architecture: Carve

Design: 2020
Completion: January 2022
Client: Galataport Istanbul Liman Isletmeciligi ve Yatirimlari a.s.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Design team: Elger Blitz, Mark van der Eng, Jasper van der Schaaf, Lucas Beukers, Wilco Spruijt, Gaia Glereani, Susanna Vissani
Photo credits: Playdium, Susanna Vissani (Carve)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Designers: Carve /

Landezine Newsletter

Best of landscape architecture in your mailbox, twice per month!


Products by Streetlife