You’ve probably seen the original film version of Let the Right One In, a disturbingly beautiful coming-of-age story that involves a bullied Swedish tween and what initially appears to be his female counterpart. That first movie adaptation, based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, placed the story in the bleak snowed-in playgrounds of a Stockholm suburb; a second film adaptation took the tale to the mushy fields of New Mexico.

But how do you take that same story to an empty theatre stage in Istanbul?

To architect Alper Derinboğaz, the answer was also in the topography itself: he and the team members of Salon produced Oblique Land, a central element that broke and united the stage floor at will. ‘As soon as we read the script, the idea of creating a dialogue between the space and performance emerged,’ he explained. ‘Within the given limits of the stage we were free to reinterpret the architecture of the play.’

He wanted to rethink theatre’s stagnant stage repertoire and articulate it as a dynamic landscape rather than a background

So, at the Zorlu Performance Arts Centre, Derinboğaz created a mesh steel structure with three parts and 19 modules that transform the stage into a topographical canvas that references the different spatial experiences of the characters. For example: throughout the play, the three parts shift and turn to address tension or joy; when they hit a peak point together, it means that Oskar and Ellie ‘complete each other.’ It is, as the architect explained, topography in flux. ‘Oblique Land is not only a stage design but rather an architectural experience that works both in horizontal and vertical spatial dimensions,’ he said.

For director Murat Daltaban and the DOT theatre company, the experimental layout was a boon: he based pointers for the actors and changes to the script based on the flexibility that this setting allowed. The inclined surfaces thus became outdoor settings such as a frozen pond, or housing. 'Therefore, the structure and the narration have an intimate contact throught the play, beyond the visible,' Daltaban explained. 

Derinboğaz has already tackled complicated projects related to micro-housing, floating structures and odd-scaled cultural institutions – the Parkopera in Antalya, for example, reimagined the size of a performance centre for a residential neighbourhood. With this compact yet astonishing proposal, he and his team looked to reinterpret ‘theatre’s stagnant stage repertoire and articulate it as a dynamic landscape rather than a background.’ That’s why his 40 Under 40 Award, given by the European Center for Architecture, Design and Urban Studies just this week, comes as no surprise.