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Tulips of Turkey
Mark K. Morrison Landscape Architecture was commissioned to design the landscape on the Bilkent University campus in Ankara, Turkey.

Landscape Architecture by Mark K. Morrison Landscape Architecture


At Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, Mark K. Morrison Landscape Architecture (MKM) created Tulip Plaza, a flexible use space for student gathering. The design was inspired by the tulip, the country's national flower, and is curvilinear to reference the university's existing architecture. It is paved entirely with local, natural stone including travertine, basalt and granite.

In November of 2013, Mark K. Morrison Landscape Architecture (MKM) was commissioned to design the landscape surrounding the new Marmara Dining Hall on the Bilkent University campus in Ankara, Turkey. For many years, the area between the new dining hall and adjacent buildings had been used for parking and vehicular through-passage. Open space for student meetings and events was scarce, so MKM proposed a flexible use plaza with vehicular passage limited to service vehicles. The design team began by analyzing campus circulation, parking, and bus routes to win approval for road closure and parking space removal. Being on a narrow hilltop, the geometry of the open space between buildings is irregular, so MKM decided upon a curvilinear paving scheme to connect points of access and egress, reference existing and new architecture, and direct pedestrians. The design was inspired by the tulip, Turkey's national flower.

The team was excited to specify local, natural stone for the plaza and to work closely with local masons and custom fabricators. Turkey exports uncut and cut stone worldwide. Enormous stone reserves are located in the Alpine orogenic belt, which developed as the mountains formed. It is estimated that Turkey has 33% of global architectural stone reserves and a 4,000-year tradition of stone production. Primary stones mined are marble, granite, onyx, limestone, basalt, andesite, conglomerate, breccia, magmatic rocks, slate, diabase and travertine. Using native stones to tie together the overall campus design, MKM's paving scheme incorporates travertine accented with basalt, and granite bands in open areas of paving.


Obtaining mature plant specimens proved difficult, so the planting plan was simple. Honey locusts cover the lawn, while birch trees that thrive in the regional climate were spaced around the plaza. Ornamental crabapple trees and red tulips planted around vegetated areas provide colorful spring blooms. In addition to wooden benches throughout the plaza, granite cubes were specified to serve as tables. Each seating area is equipped with WiFi and electrical outlets. Nighttime illumination of the plaza is provided by narrow red light poles. The color red appears throughout the project as it is the country's national color.

Travertine, a sedimentary rock, is a type of limestone. It characteristically has a surface pitted with troughs and holes which can fill with water, causing freeze/thaw, or fill with urban particulates and dirt. Therefore, for the travertine pavers, the surface holes were filled with an epoxy, and the pavers sealed to prevent etching and absorption of oils and other staining materials. Basalt is an igneous rock, formed from lava flow and abundant in Turkey. It is used widely as a dimensional paving stone; when cut it appears a deep uniform grey and due to extreme hardness does not require any surface treatment. Granite, also igneous, is abundant in Turkey. Numerous stones are categorized as granite because of the visible and colorful crystalline structure of minerals within the stone. MKM selected a light grey granite with some pink coloration.

Unlike working in the United States where layout plans are dimensioned, Turkish law dictates that all projects on government lands should use geo-coordinates for layout plans. Due to the complex curves, MKM's design team was comfortable that this approach would faithfully replicate the plan. They considered having all stones cut on a curve to conform to the curvilinear scheme, but the price was prohibitive so the team decided to have the pavers placed tangentially using relatively narrow individual stones.

Construction on Tulip Plaza was completed in the winter of 2015. Mark Morrison traveled to Turkey several times to advise on paver installation and to search for trees. The planting plan is simple, due to the challenge of procuring mature specimens. The trees in the lawn areas are honey locust, 42 in number. Forty-three birches were planted near the edges of the plaza. All birch species thrive in this climate. Fourteen 'Evereste' crabapple trees were specified to provide spring bloom. Turkey has enormous biological diversity, but it can be challenging to procure trees of equal size and shape east of Istanbul. MKM visited a number of nurseries in and around Ankara before sourcing trees from Italy. MKM is working on a new residence hall for the university and will be sourcing plant material well in advance to secure large and uniform trees.

As seen in LASN magazine, February 2017.

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August 24, 2019, 5:23 am PDT

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