A Forgotten Name in Modern Architecture of Turkey: Hasan Halit Femir (1910-1954)

Halit Femir’in Mimarlığına Bir Bakış





Halit Femir, Post-War Architecture, Design Education, Bank Design, Modern Housing


The historiography of Turkish modern architecture is limited to certain names and major projects. This resulted in the oblivion
of many important architects and their projects. This study focuses on one of the numerous forgotten actors of Turkish
architecture, Halit Femir, and wishes to emphasize the position he and his projects deserved in architectural history. The
architect graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1937 and has been an educator at the same institution. Our article is
based on a master thesis that investigated the life and architectural production of Halit Femir in the context of his époque. In
the scope of the study, Arkitekt magazine, archives of Le Corbusier Foundation (Paris), the archive of personal affairs of
Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, newspapers, and the architect’s family archive were consulted. In addition to that, still
preserved projects were visited and observed, also information from current users was obtained via interviews.
Halit Femir’s designs and refined architectural language were stylistically different from the major streams of his time.
Although Femir worked as Sedad Hakkı Eldem’s assistant at the Academy of Fine Arts, Femir did not follow Eldem’s nationalmodern attitude. His work is neither similar to the cubic architecture of the 1930s. His most important building is the Lido Swimming Pool which still exists as a ruin in the city and was once an important focal point in İstanbul cultural life. In fact
“Lido Swimming Pool” consisted of an Olympic-sized pool, a hotel, and a casino block. The building was transformed into a
nightclub in the 1990s and closed after a terrorist attack on 2016 New Year’s Eve.
Halit Femir’s works reflect his architectural education at The Academy of Fine Arts and also the internships he did at the
offices of Sven Markelius and Le Corbusier. In the designs of his functional and rational projects, Femir followed new trends
and used contemporary building materials and the technology of his époque. Especially using different materials as a richness
in the design is a distinguishing feature of his work in both façades and interiors. His design of Bursa Hall and Bazaar (1949)
with the ribbed reinforced concrete vault is an important step in Turkish architecture suggesting new forms for structural
systems. In Lido Swimming Pool and Küçük Sahne, he used an imported insulation material and provided new technical
installation for his bank designs.
Halit Femir and Feridun Akozan’s co-designed production were housing consisting of many luxurious single houses and some
apartments. The single houses followed a similar approach of designing functionally similar spaces together, the main spaces
were connected with the gardens and they used large openings in façades and different natural materials. For the Şenesenevler Housing Cooperative project (1947), Akozan and Femir investigated together with Ahsen Yapanar the contexts of housing shortage after the Second World War. The settlement consists of houses connected with private gardens, and social facilities and the settlement was organized in a self-sufficient neighboring unit. Halit Femir acquired his projects via personal
relationships. His uncle Emin Vafi, a rich tradesman, played an important role as a patron of many projects. Through his
marriage in 1949 with Güner Hanım who was from a rich Bursa family, he benefited from the relations of his wife’s social
circle. His educator identity is worth mentioning and has parallel attitudes with his professional career. He did not limit his
students to one solution and always encouraged them to try new design ideas in his studio classes. Despite Halit Femir’s early
death at the age of 44, he designed many projects on different scales, contributed to the education at the Academy of Fine Arts, and will hopefully be more visible now.