President Erdoğan opens new Turkish House skyscraper in New York steeped in Turkish symbolism

The Manhattan skyline has a new addition: Turkish House / Türkevi, which was officially opened on Monday by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The 36-floor building, located across the street to the United Nations headquarters, will be home to Turkey’s permanent mission to the UN, the Turkish Consulate, and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) New York Representative Office. It will also become a hub for Turkish cultural activity in the United States.

Türkevi reflects Turkey’s “increased power,” President Erdoğan said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, where he was joined by a host of guests including TRNC President Ersin Tatar, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and Archbishop Elpidophoros, a Turkish citizen born in Bakırköy, Istanbul, who is now Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.

Designed by New York-based architecture firm Perkins Eastman, with support from Turkey’s Dizayn Group, the 171-metre high skyscraper cost $300 million and is rich in Turkish symbolism.

The top of the building is shaped like a tulip, which featured heavily in the Ottoman Empire era, when the flower was widely cultivated. The tulip also has religious connotations: the Turkish word for the flower is “lale”, which becomes “Allah” when spelt out in the Ottoman-era alphabet.

Türkevi has curved edges to represent the crescent in the Turkish flag, while the design for its entrance is inspired by the old Silk Road’s caravansaries, or roadside inns, popular since the days of the Seljuk Empire, where weary travellers would stay overnight to rest.

Manhattan, New York: President Erdoğan was joined by a host of guests at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Turkish House, including TRNC President Ersin Tatar, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and Archbishop Elpidophoros, a Turkish citizen who is now Head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, 20 Sept. 2021. Photo © Turkish Presidency


“We have reunited with Türkevi, which contains motifs inspired by the Seljuk era and the tulip, which has an exceptional place in our culture,” said the Turkish President, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting this week.

“God willing, the building will serve for a long time as a symbol of Turkey’s success stories,” he said.

One of President Erdoğan’s ambitions is to reform the UN Security Council. He coined the phrase “the world is bigger than five”, in reference to the five Security Council permanent members the US, Russia, China, UK and France, which have the right to veto any UN Resolution, giving them huge political clout.

In a multi-polarity world, President Erdoğan is keen for regional powers like Turkey to have a greater say in international affairs. For over a decade, Turkey has played a pivotal role in Syria, Cyprus, Libya, and most recently in Azerbaijan.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said: “We blend our power in the field with the power we have at the table.”

How Türkevi came to be

The skyscraper was constructed on the site of a previous, smaller building, bought from IBM in 1977 when Sıtkı Coşkun was the Turkish Consul General.

How the far-sighted purchase came to be was documented by Ambassador Alper Coşkun, who as a young boy bore witness to his father’s efforts to find a suitable space to build a centre for Turks in America, and recalled the events in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

Sıtkı Coşkun visited the head of New York City Council to discuss his idea, and was offered a host of possible locations, After inspecting 63 sites, the Turkish Consul General decided the most appropriate one was the old IBM building.

He consulted with Turkey’s then Foreign Minister İhsan Sabri Çağlayangil and Washington Ambassador Melih Rauf Esenbel, who agreed with Coşkun’s project and recommended investment.

As the newly appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, Cafer Tayyar Sadıklar oversaw this important transaction.

Without each of their contributions, Türkevi would not have been possible, Alper Coşkun said.

He noted that the IBM building had been a landmark building in Manhattan. The now retired ambassador hopes Türkevi in its new form will continue to serve as the same:

“Türkevi will maintain this feature in its new state, in the most magnificent way. How happy we are!

“Türkevi embodies the best of our state traditions and long-term vision, and [its realisation] is a testimony to our national perseverance.

“Like every Turkish citizen and all those involved [in this project], my father is very happy today!”