Not many people know this, but Istanbul has some fairly nice Art Nouveau heritage too! Last week, I went ‘Art Nouveau hunting’ and my first discovery is the Ravouna Building at 201 İstiklal Caddesi, in Beyoglu.
The Ravouna building was designed in 1894 by Constantinos P. Kyriakides (1881-1942) as a home for the wealthy Italian Ravouna family and the family’s antiques and jewellery store. It was built along the Grande Rue de Pera (now called Istiklal Caddesi) between 1901 and 1906 by the Italian Enterpreneurs G. & Alf. Michelini. Alexandre D. Yenidunia designed the exquisite wooden interior including wall-to-wall cabinets to display jewellery and antiques. The names of all involved parties are chiselled in stone; the letters RF – for Ravouna Family – can be found on the facade too.
It is not known why and when the Ravouna Family left the building; but after they had left, it is said, the building became a bookstore. Since then, it has changed hands many times. In 2011, the building has been fully renovated by architect Halil Onur in accordance with drawings approved by the Beyoglu Conservation Committee and the Beyoglu Municipality. The restoration works were carried out by local conservation specialists, Galata Yapı.
At present the building is in service as Ravouna Suites and Ravouna Coffee & Bar. The building is a second degree listed historical building. The wooden interior is listed as well.
When I told the manager of Ravouna Coffee & Bar the purpose of my visit, he was more than happy to show me around. He told me the glass of the display cabinets had to be replaced during the refurbishment but the cabinets themselves are completely original! What an exceptional treat, to be able to see this kind of superb craftsmanship in a perfect condition after more than 100 years!
As was common in Art Nouveau architecture, there’s a mezzanine that overlooks the shop floor. Equipped with the same beautifully designed and carved display cabinets the mezzanine currently functions as an Art Gallery.
From the same floor, at the back of the building, one can enjoy the view over a beautiful garden.
But that’s not all. Ravouna’s Coffee & Bar also has a coffee-roasting facility upstairs! “The highest quality green coffee beans are chosen from all around the world and roasted on the premises. Our baristas have been trained by the famous barista trainer Chris Owens to produce the best tasting coffee, using the freshest coffee beans preserved with utmost care.”
On that same floor, I noticed the original beautifully restored radiators! Just look at it! Excellent that there are still people who appreciate these old radiators enough and pay heaps of money to have them refurbished.
Going all the way up to the 5th floor (inbetween floors have been turned into a luxurious hotel) a spectacular view awaits us from the almost finished rooftop terrace! This summer, the terrace will be open to the public. And boy, will the Ravouna Coffee & Bar be popular this summer!!! Looking to the left, over the Bosporus, you can see Asia. And to the right, over the Golden Horn, you can see the Topkapi Palace, the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. And straight ahead, the Sea of Marmara. Wow!
In my previous post I wrote about a small Art Nouveau building in Dordrecht that had looked hideous for decades, but thanks to an architecture lover has now been refurbished beautifully. And also in Istanbul, there apparently are people who appreciate Fin-de-Siècle architecture enough to be willing to invest in the restoration. The Ravouna House is proof of that. Let’s just hope the rescue of Flora Han and the Botter House, two other magnificent yet painfully neglected Art Nouveau buildings in Istanbul, will follow soon… before it is too late…
Update May 2022: The Ravouna is now turned into a branche of the Galleria Vitavien chain.
Art Nouveau in Istanbul (Dutch PDF)
Concept of Westernization and the role of foreign architects in 19th century Ottoman architecture
The Constantinople Spirit
İstanbul’s forgotten art nouveau heritage
Ravouna Building, a Brochure about the building’s history (PDF).