KM Designworks, Over 60 Years of Modern Design in Istanbul

KM Designworks roots go back to the early 1960s, when designer Yildirim Kocaciklioglu laid its foundations in Istanbul. Kocaciklioglu was singularly dedicated to a design vision that applied modern design to the cultural circumstances of Turkey in the 20th century. His first design office with partner Turhan Uncuoglu, located in the historic Beyoglu district, led the way for the iconic furniture store Interno that opened its doors in Istanbul’s sophisticated Nisantasi district in 1969. In 2000, he moved on to set up Kocaciklioglu Mimarlik with his son Cem Kocaciklioglu, who founded KM Designworks in the UK in 2021.

Origins of KM Designworks and Yildirim Kocaciklioglu, Istanbul 1960s and 1970s

KM Designworks’ design DNA dates from this period in the 20th century and the numerous designs for furniture, graphics and interiors show the practice’s dedication to the possibilities for art and craft in modern design in Turkey. Yildirim Kocaciklioglu’s understanding of material, technique and craft through long standing relationships with craftsmen and tradesman in Istanbul’s atelier culture gave his work a unique local flavour tying his designs to the craft traditions of the city. Critically, however, design was above all pursued through a modernist vision imparted to him at the Devlet Guzel Sanatlar Akademisi, the State Academy of Fine Arts, through teachers such as Sadun Ersin, Utarit Izgi and Sedat Hakki Eldem. The DGSA was a key school and centre for post-war design in Istanbul and Turkey. Many of its professors and students were influenced by the “Fine Arts” mentality of design and making in a studio and workshop setting. The modernism of their creation was always balanced with a close association with the modernist spirit of design of spare forms, abstract geometries combined with material and technique. Yildirim Kocaciklioglu was a product and practitioner of modernism in post-war Turkey.

Yildirim Kocaciklioglu and Post-war Italian Design

As a modern designer, Yildirim Kocaciklioglu created work in the combination of form, material and technique that was the dominant design vision of the times influenced by developments in Europe, especially Italy. He would apply this work through influences largely originating from northern Italy in figures such as Gio Ponti and Joe Colombo, and later Carlo Scarpa. Italy with its long history and established traditions in architecture and design became a model that Kocaciklioglu pursued for many years, establishing his own Istanbul and Turkish modernist design influenced by craft and materials. Working for primarily private clients over the years meant that Kocaciklioglu was not in the public eye. He existed in a limited but influential social circle of Istanbul, creating taste for an urban elite through production of furniture and interiors by craftsmen and tradesmen.

Cem Kocaciklioglu and Italy, The Milano Years 1994-2001

Cem Kocaciklioglu was educated in the cultural sphere of Istanbul in the 1970s and 1980s, influenced by the cosmopolitan setting of the time. European style dominated tastes and interests as liberalisation of Turkey in the 1980s allowed a free flow of people, ideas and objects between Europe and Turkey. Cem Kocaciklioglu’s first design education was at Marmara University in a design philosophy of Bauhaus influence. He would later continue his design education moving to Milan to attend Domus Academy in 1994. Graduating Domus in 1995, he would engage in his first professional activities at CIBIC & Partners, the office of the designer Aldo Cibic at that time. Cibic himself had worked for many years with the post-modern Ettore Sottsass, with attention to local cultural forces blended with modernism as leitmotif in his design. Cem Kocaciklioglu would finish his Milan sojourn partnering with architect Carlo Chambry, who was noted for classicism and modernism in the urban sphere.






Kocaciklioglu Mimarlik, 2001-now

Kocaciklioglu Mimarlık was set up in 2001 by Cem Kocaciklioglu, upon his return from Italy in 2001. Based in Nisantasi, Istanbul, on the same street Interno used to be, Kocaciklioglu Mimarlik’s architecture and design practice had as its basis an overriding concern for the nature of the places we inhabit, reflecting Yildirim’s modernist approach with Cem’s now more urban and cosmopolitan view. Starting from the design approach of Yildirim Kocaciklioglu that was focused on fusing the spirit of modernism with classic traditions, to Cem Kocaciklioglu’s finely detailed interiors and exteriors for contemporary living reflecting his Milan years, the firm’s works show an abiding care for how clients work and live. In the numerous works by the firm over two decades, whether they are buildings, interiors, or furniture, we see how each place and object is carefully designed with attention to the clients’ way of living, the context in which it exists, and the overall urban environment.