Avanos is located in Cappadocia in central Turkey in a region with traces of Hittite, Phrygian, Persian, Assyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations. An important political and religious center in the central Anatolian plateau, Avanos’ origins date 4000 years with the location appearing later in the Roman period as a prominent and developed city. The natural and cultural riches of Avanos and its surroundings have attracted the attention of historians and travelers for centuries. Notably the geological features of the region and especially the carved-rock settlements that have had constant human habitation throughout history that makes Avanos one of the most unique locations of Cappadocia.

Project Name: Cappadocia Spa Hotel
Studio Name: Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD
Project Location: Cappadocia-Turkey
Architectural Project & Design: Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD
Firm Location: ISTANBUL, Turkey
Project Team: Nesime Önel Olcaycan, Burak Paksoy, Beyza Turgutlu, Aysu Acar, Batuhan Çelebi, Volkan Buluç Kutal
Construction Area: 37789 m2
Project Site Area: 251930 m2
Year: 2020
Client: Indigo group
Awards: Architecture Master Prize 2021- Honorable Mention in Architectural Design / Hospitality Architecture

Cappadocia Spa Hotel by Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD - Sheet2
©Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD

GAD transforms abandoned quarry in Avanos into a tourist resort

GAD designed an architectural project to turn an abandoned and deteriorated quarry in Avanos in Cappadocia, Turkey into a hotel facility, creating a plan for a thermal tourism destination resort with an ambient atmosphere integrated into the unique topography using an innovative design process. In fact, this is not the first project by GAD in this geography as the practice had previously designed another hotel in Cappadocia. With this project the aim was to restore the deteriorated hill and quarry as a tourism asset with design strategies that create direct connections with the surrounding geological conditions. Using the centuries old techniques of carving directly into the topography, the design for the hotel generated cave rooms carved from natural stone and a thermal lagoon for guests to experience this geography in a unique way. More so the hotel was planned to be used year round with the aim of increasing the cultural and social values of its surroundings.

Cappadocia Spa Hotel by Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD - Sheet11
©Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD

The project area is located in Nevşehir, in the district of Tas Ocakları region, Türkmenlik Tepe. After a previous mining license for the site was revoked, it was decided to plan the area around tourism-oriented conservation and use. During the design process, archaeological sites were identified in areas that had not been previously mined as quarries. Site analysis revealed an altar structure located at the highest point of the site, a historical artifact rarely seen in Cappadocia, that was discovered and taken under protection by the archaeologists of the regional conservation board. As a result of the research in the area of the site, the unique physical texture of the area, historical sites and the presence of thermal underground water emerged as the main elements in the shaping of the project. In GAD’s architectural concept, the aim was to remove the boundaries between nature and the old and the new structures and to merge these concepts into each other holistically.

Adhering to the depth and heights allowed by the existing rock-carved constructions, the plan consisted of a main node and interrelated cave spaces attached to this joint. The construction techniques of the project were described by GAD as ‘rock carving’. Importantly as a planning principle a connection between interior and exterior, between the indoor pool and the hot lagoon in the spa section, was generated . For special events, a stage in the middle of the artificially created hot water pool and a  terrace in the quarry cavities were planned along with a restaurant that could accommodate larger events.

For the hotel, the plan called for 20 cave rooms, to provide daylight where possible and to generate a “street-like” atmosphere in the primary interior corridor. A total of 50 above ground rooms were also planned by directing these terraced rooms to the available views. While the primary circulation route connects the interior spaces, a historical landscape is also created by intertwining the design with the natural rock texture and opening this route towards the exterior with overhead skylights. By using physical and cultural data, in a process of understanding the genius loci aspect of the ‘’place’’, the boundaries between the natural and the new in the architectural strategy were removed. The old and new contexts were interlaced. The design aimed to preserve the unique texture by integrating all units at different scales and spatial characteristics with the existing texture of the site.

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©Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD

Carving as Design and Construction Methodology

GAD brought the Spa Hotel to life by considering the unique physical characteristics of the discovered site. The archaeological sites became the main design factor alongside the existing parameters and local characteristics of the area. During the design process of the project, a system formed by the increase and rise of the units in proportional relations in reference to the research by Architect Alpaslan in his book, Mimaride Cetvel Düzeni.  In this way Ataman’s spatial design approach previously seen in other GAD architecture designs is applied in the project by carving out space rather than building it up. In a classical architecture masonry system, a shell is knitted to generate an interior space and this outer shell creates a negative space inside. This shell, located between the environment and the interior, acts as a membrane.

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©Gökhan Avcıoğlu & GAD

The goal of the design strategy of GAD Cappadocia Türkmenlik is to create an interior space in negative spaces left from pieces torn from a large mold, rather than making a shell. While the pieces we mentioned here are being cut out of the rock, the rhythm of obtaining spaces in traditional architecture, measurement systems and rulers are quite suitable for this method of obtaining such an interior space. A synthesis was created with multiplicative spatial ratios and other multiple scaling design principles. Experiments were made with all forms that could be created with modern construction techniques.  As a result of these experiments, the design aimed to create a mold of negative spaces and turn these interior spaces into spatial hierarchies and geometric spaces as part of visitor experience. The cube modules in the project exhibit organic development and growth similar to the architecture of the Roman and Ottoman periods, generating an additive system that is created by adding module units. By designing these modules with digital algorithms, a structure that meets the necessary needs was created combining historical architecture principles with computer generated design.

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