Ismail Haluk Kaya graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich with a degree in civil engineering. After working in Europe, in 1980 he joined the family company Üçgen Construction and Trade Co. Inc. and became the chairman of the board of directors, a post he still holds today. The company has specialized in the development and the construction of four- and five-star hotels and has completed Radisson SAS hotels in Ankara, Istanbul, St. Petersburg and Georgia; the Conrad Istanbul; Swissotel Antalya, Turkey; and Sheraton Ashgabad, Turkmenistan. WATG is currently working with Mr. Kaya on a large resort development in Turkey. Sustainability will be a key driver for the project.
What have been the main challenges in working in locations like Turkey, Russia and the CIS countries?
It's been a challenge to realize projects that respond both to local regulations and to international standards ... and to have them be economically sound.
You're working on a big resort in Antalya at the moment. Do you think Turkey is emerging from the economic crisis more quickly than its neighbors? If so, do you see a strong demand for resorts?
The Turkish banking system has not suffered from the crises. Nor has our tourism. People are jobless because our exports dropped 30 percent. But we are expecting growth to resume shortly. I see a reasonable demand but not a strange one. The total development and build-out of our resort will take place over a period of eight years!
What is important about hotel design to you?
That the space allocations are up to professional standards. It's also important that the client doesn't invest in a monument for the architect's ego.
What's your favorite destination?
I don't have a favorite destination. I like old cities. So, definitely not any city in the USA.
How does working with an international design group like WATG bring value to your projects?
WATG has so much experience and a staff who has digested this experience. This is directly reflected in their approach to design and their innovative solutions. WATG helps us understand what we want. Their architects, planners and designers think with us and inform us about the consequences of our decisions. Except for the location, the economic success of the project is mostly decided on the drawing board. It is there that WATG brings big value.
As featured in the December 2009 issue of Elevation.