One of those impressions belongs to Architect Mustafa Kemal Abadan. Along with co-designer Architect David Childs, he is one of the two chief architects of the 55-story twin towers that belong to AOL Time Warner Center rising high in the sky at Columbus Circle. The 210 meter tall structures cost approximately 1.8 billion U.S. dollars. This represents the largest credit line to date received from a bank to be used for a building construction.
Construction was completed on a 1.3 billion dollar bank loan. Besides world famous CNN, America Online, and Time Warner, these twin towers also house the 5-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel with 260 guest rooms, 225 luxurious residences, ballrooms, restaurants, and shops. Furthermore, a jazz club in this building to be named after Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun will open its doors by the end of this year. The underground mall opened its doors a few months ago and its construction that began in 2000 is expected to be fully completed and in service by the end of the year.
Naturally, our meeting location with Mustafa Kemal Abadan was the AOL Time Warner Center. Considering the photo opportunities that NYC’s sunrise offers, he requested to meet with us early in the morning. We weren’t going to disagree with the master architect who drew this skyscraper design and met with him at 9:30 in the morning. The entrance of the building facing the Columbus Circle has a huge window face.
The ground floor mall is one of NYC’s most popular. First, I ask Mr. Abadan “How does it feel to leave such a mark on a city like NYC?” With a light smile he says, “In some businesses you deal with intangible items. However, that doesn't leave anything tangible to you or to next generations. But designing, such a structure, is so honorable and it is something that I can proudly present to coming generations.”
A PARTNER OF A WORLD GIANT
Mr. Abadan is currently a partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) Company, one of the top three architect firms in the world by its trade volume. He has been with the company for 21 years. We will not be able to fit SOM’s entire project list on this page, but the following are some of the major designs of this firm that was established in 1936: the highest structure in the U.S. - Chicago’s Sears Tower and John Hancock Tower; the pioneer in office design architecture - NYC’s Lever House; U.S. Air Force Academy; Euro Disney, Paris, and Bank of America Center in San Francisco. Hilton Istanbul is also one of SOM’s architectural products. To date, the SOM architecture team received over 800 design awards and materialized over 10,000 projects in 40 countries.
PROJECTS IN FIVE CONTINENTS
Mr. Abadan was born in 1958 in Ankara to an academician couple Yavuz & Nermin Abadan. Part of his education was in Germany but he received a high school diploma from Istanbul Robert College. Both of his undergraduate and graduate degrees were from Cornell University. Mr. Abadan is not just an architect with projects in the U.S.; he placed his signature on major designs in all 5 continents with the exception of Australia and Antarctica.
A project that he is working on recently is the 148-acre joint research center by Cornell and Stanford Universities to serve the purpose of agricultural research in desert climates.
The center will be located in the Jordanian-Israeli neutral zone and its initial phase will have a price tag of approximately 80-100 million dollars. The campus will house up to 1000 students and is expected to be completed in four years. Mr. Abadan presented the project to both the King of Jordan, Abdullah, and the Israeli Prime Minister. Fifteen years ago as a fresh architect, he advanced his career significantly with contributions to the design of the building that we are currently in: The AOL Time Warner Center.
The Islamic Cultural Center, the first mosque to be built in New York by contributions of all Islamic UN member countries is also an Abadan design. With the responsibility of a project that represents the entire Islamic universe, Mr. Abadan stated, “I based the design on all Islamic countries not just on an architectural features of one country.”
Mr. Abadan has ten projects at different design stages including the City University of New York’s new campus Jan Jay College and a Tokyo building complex to include the city’s highest building. The foundation will be laid on May 19th.
FOR AN IMAGINARY SOCIETY
Mr. Abadan says that a project similar to AOL Time Warner Center takes 1.5 to 2 years to design and he stresses the importance of incorporating the architectural culture and texture of the city into the design.
Reminding him of the master architect of the Ottoman Empire, Mimar Sinan and his unique hidden features, we are asking Mr. Abadan whether he also leaves similar markings on his designs. Mr. Abadan: “I do not make any special additions to the projects. However, in the AOL Time Warner Center project we have placed a glass enclosure at a corner with no practical functionality. But it represented the completion of the Columbus Circle.
As a successful architect, he has a vision to contribute to his home country by a special design that is aimed towards the society: “There are plenty of commercial building products. I would rather like to design a community project such as a cultural center or a concert hall in Istanbul.”
By mentioning two discontinued projects, the Park Hotel and Suzer Plaza (also known as Gokkafes) in Taksim-Gumussuyu where their construction was not allowed since both designs were deemed unsuitable to the city landscape, he emphasized the importance of environmental city planning: “The municipality of New York has a lot of saying and control over the buildings to be located within their city. For example, it was the city who insisted to have two performance halls suitable for jazz concerts in this building. Environmental planning is not left up to the builder.”
ABADAN’S SIGNATURE DESIGNS
- Headquarters of UBS, one the world leading banks in Connecticut.
- JP Morgan’s Abrill Center and Birmann 29. (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
- The Inpar Development (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
- Rio Office Park (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
- Birmann 24 (Santiago, Chile)
- Tzu Chi Cultural Campus (Hualien, Taiwan)
- Aztec West Business Park, Canary Wharf, Chase Manhattan Bank. (London, England)
- New office buildings of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). (Cairo, Egypt)
- American Business Center. (Berlin, Germany)
- The Philippine American Life Insurance Building, the World Centre and Petron Mega Plaza. (Manila, Philippines)
- Harlem USA Mall and Business Center. (Harlem, New York)
- The Milstein Hospital Building. (New York)
- Kings County Hospital Center. (Brooklyn, New York)
- Various projects of St. Luke’s / Roosevelt Hospital. (New York)
- Various projects of Lenow Hill Hospital. (New York)
- Mount Sinai Medical Center (New York)
(April 2004, 12th Issue Cover)