Tinkering at Porof Zihni Sinir in Istanbul


Having been in Istanbul since leaving my little residency, I’ve really been missing all the great fun at the Exploratorium. But I’ve been making up for it by doing some playful invention and exploration with a number of teachers and children in this great city. I'll be posting about some of my workshops in a day or two, but thought I'd mention this place I discovered the other day while I was out and about.

Cihangir is a neighborhood just south of Taksim Square in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul. The very narrow, maze-like streets of Cihangir are lined with cafes, vintage clothing and second hand shops. It is here that I miraculously stumbled upon Porof Zihni Sinir, a shop named after a very popular cartoon character created by the artist Irfan Sayar.

The shop is also Irfan Sayar’s workshop, a place where Sayar and his assistants build wondrous machines and toys and carry out tinkering workshops for children in the neighborhood. While they sell kits for building some of their creations at home,

what I loved most about the place was mix of both display, documentation, and workshop:

The walls, floor and shelves were filled with a variety of playful ideas, including Porof Zihni Sinir’s own take on the marble machine, this one of the magnetic variety and the use of cardboard as decorative element, giving me visions of C.I.T.

They also had their own version of the scribbling machine, and in the spirit of supporting local artists, I bought two for my scribbling machine collection.

I spent a while in the workshop, chatting some with Sayar but also chatting with one of his assistants about building, art, science. Through his limited English and my non-existent Turkish we both agreed that children don’t get enough opportunities to build or create. Every once in a while I get the urge to start my own workshop in my hometown. I’ve added the Porof Zihni Sinir shop as another model for the kind of space I’d like to be part of one day. It is a magical place in the heart of a magical city.

This place looks great, and almost as character-based as John's "Do-it-Yourself Workshop in Cambridge. What is similar about this place, and what's different?

Yes, very similar to Build-It-Yourself in Cambridge. I was actually thinking that the whole time I was there, and meant to include it in the post.

This place looks fantastic. A kindred spirit for sure!
Thanks for the post. We'll all miss you this Saturday at Open MAKE. You won't believe what Tim Hunkin and Nicole have cooked up in the last few days.

Can't wait to see what Nicole and Tim are doing. I'll be there in spirit. I think Irfan Sayar is actually a Turkish version of Tim Hunkin, with the exception that he went from being a cartoonist to being an engineer.

But to answer your question, maybe John G.'s place is more engineering oriented, this place is more art focused. This place felt a lot like an art gallery (it's surrounded by interesting object-stocked shops and galleries) where as John's place feels more like an after-school center. Also, when they do workshops here it's with 5 kids at the most, B.I.Y. was more inclusive I think.

glad to see you're enjoying Turkey and getting to visit inspiring places. it's incredible to me how these activities like marble machines and scribbling bots can be explored over and over again in so many contexts with different versions created by different people and groups but while probably still nurturing the same playful tinkering and creative building opportunities for kids and adults.
and did I see an 'scraper bike' in the shop window (we have these coming for open make metal) scary...
wish me luck moving the bubbles today for open make. no joke. it will be sweet redemption

Zihni sinir is my childhood character. He had lots of funny investigations. He was a character of Irfan Sayar. Thanks him for funny minutes.

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