I just observed the front façade of Germenya Han in Sirkeci and quickly read its interesting history.

A little further down the road, I found myself looking at the Art Nouveau style Vlora Han.

Next thing, I was in Moda. Mesmerised by the magnificent mansion built by an Anatolian Greek architect.

A nostalgic Art Deco apartment in Nişantaşı.

An Istanbul waterside mansion overlooking the Bosphorus.

A pretty but run-down summer house in Izmir.

Time seemed to vanish between the facades of the buildings…

Serkan Ennaç’s Instagram account ‘Architecture of Turkey’ is his interesting way of rediscovering buildings that appeal to him. You could think of him as an explorer who determines walking routes instinctively. His discoveries sometimes remind us of the values that we seem to have forgotten. This is the Istanbul leg of a diverse photo series of Turkey from the perspective of an architect whose greatest passion is architecture and buildings.

I met with Ennaç for a coffee in a pleasant cafe on a quaint side street of Nişantaşı. I asked what Istanbul meant to him; melancholy was his reply. For him, a ferry sailing along the Bosphorus followed by a flock of seagulls somehow instils a sense of sadness in him.

Serkan Ennaç spent his childhood in Istanbul’s Etiler district during the 80s. He misses the times when all the kids in the neighbourhood played out in the streets, regardless of class. ‘There are so many unforgettable memories, but I think what I enjoyed most was the springtime picnics on Lovers Hill in Etiler, before it was sacrificed to a housing project-Maya Residence. It would be covered with daisies and other colourful spring flowers. Looking at Bebek from that hill is still spectacular and I still think of my childhood when I go to the restaurant/bar Backyard , which is in the same spot today.’

The architect lives in a quiet part of Şişli. He finds satisfaction in the surviving urban fabric of this neighbourhood, which still bears traces of the past. He enjoys exploring Beyoğlu, Sultanahmet and Kadıköy the most. Sitting in the garden of Cihangir Mosque and watching the spectacular scenery gives him peace.

The many faces of Istanbul in every neighbourhood

Ennaç lived abroad for some time. The things he missed most while away from home were the Bosphorus coastline, eating fish by the sea and the crowds that pour down Istiklal Boulevard until the early hours. ‘I believe Istanbul is unique for several reasons. It is inherently cosmopolitan; it stretches along one of the most spectacular waterways in the world and has magical geographical features besides architectural wonders.’

The son of a Macedonian mother and a father from Antep, Serkan Ennaç was born and raised in Istanbul. He is defiant that there is no place like Istanbul. The vista from the terrace of The Marmara Pera is his personal favourite. Seeing the Golden Horn from any perspective mesmerises him.

According to Ennaç ‘The Golden Horn, Sultanahmet, Balat… Each one has its distinct features. You can discover the many different faces of Istanbul when you visit a series of neighbourhoods on the same day.’ This makes me think about how this diversity inspires us all on a personal level.

‘I feel like I have done more in the name of architecture with my Architecture of Turkey account!’

We wander around Teşvikiye, our eyes focused on the facades of the buildings. With him by your side, there is no way of missing a structure of interest. His Architecture of Turkey account is an online platform that emerged from his passion for architecture. Ennaç opened the account in November 2019 with the idea of sharing photos of buildings that appealed to him. He has reservations about professional photography and is certainly not confined by perfectionism. Before posting anything, he thoroughly investigates the background story of every building. The information that accompanies the photos is the result of meticulous research that extends from online sources to municipal archives.

‘I don’t publish posts about buildings that don’t appeal to me, and that includes listed buildings and award-winning ones. I don’t care if they are well known or not. I might feature an unnoticed building just because I like it. Elderly architects, in particular, get very happy when I mention their buildings.’ Sincerity is important to Ennaç and traces of his personality are reflected in his Architecture of Turkey account.

He was never bothered about receiving likes, in fact, he never anticipated that the account would acquire so many followers. ‘The passion was always in me. The unexpected happens when passion matures into success. I don’t deny feeling a degree of satisfaction from all this.’ So, what has he gained most through his Architecture of Turkey account? ‘I feel I am doing more in the name of architecture through this account. Turkey’s leading architects are among my followers. I would have never gotten this much exposure if I had just practised architecture. The connections I’ve made through the account carry much more value than those I made during my professional career.’

‘I wouldn’t prefer to live in a house designed by Le Corbusier.’

Though occasionally, Serkan Ennaç still practices architecture. He defines his style as contemporary. European modernist architecture, which spread across the globe, is remarkable according to Ennaç, but the ‘Mid-Century’ is clearly his favourite period.

‘From nature to ancient architecture, there are a myriad of inspiring things in the world. However, the structures that have impressed me the most are the Hagia Sophia, the Pantheon, the Suleymaniye Mosque, Center Pompidou, and Scarpa’s Olivetti showroom.’ Although Gaudi’s buildings do not reflect his style, he enjoys observing ornately decorated structures.

I really admire Le Corbusier. I could visit his buildings dozens of times, but I may not prefer to live in a building designed by him. They bear so much architectural meaning to me. You don’t go out to the high street wearing a special designer costume from a fashion show, right? Similarly, I believe some buildings are there to represent architecture, not to be lived in.’

Ennaç loves spaces that have a ‘lived in’ feel. He tells me of the heirloom carpet he took with him wherever he went. I figure that he likes to add something personal to where he lives. He doesn’t find Bauhaus to be natural.

Serkan Ennaç’s highlights…

Serkan Ennaç appreciates buildings that reflect the characteristics of a period. He takes into account façade ratios, the balance of voids against the mass of the building and the overall composition. Among his favourite buildings in Istanbul are the Tomb of Sheikh Zafir, the Atatürk Library, the Sirer Mansion, the Rıza Derviş Mansion, the Hilton Bosphorus, and the recently re-discovered Botter Apartment. The Turkish architects he admires from the past include Sedad Hakkı Eldem, Utarit Izgi, and Behruz Çinici.

In the global arena, Serkan Ennaç’s list mainly includes names who have succeeded in delivering pioneering works in their period, in particular Carlo Scarpa, Zaha Hadid, Oscar Niemeyer, Paul Rudolph, Mies Van der Rohe, and Renzo Piano. For a well-known Muslim woman like Zaha Hadid to predict the future with courage rather than style is both inspiring and admirable according to Ennaç.

Serkan Ennaç is a passionate observer who seems to have turned his curiosity into an occupation. The things he tells remind me of a noun from Walter Benjamin’s Passages. According to Benjamin, a ‘Flâneur’ is ‘… a person who feels at home in the facades…’ Could Serkan Ennaç be a version of the ‘flâneur’ character in the case of Istanbul’s architecture?