Turkey's Erdogan plans to expand controversial palace by adding 250-room residence: Top architect

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses inside the new Ak Saray presidential palace (White Palace) on the outskirts of Ankara on Oct 29, 2014. Erdogan is planning to expand his already controversial new presidential palace with a 250-room r
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses inside the new Ak Saray presidential palace (White Palace) on the outskirts of Ankara on Oct 29, 2014. Erdogan is planning to expand his already controversial new presidential palace with a 250-room residency building, Ankara's top architect was quoted as saying Thursday. -- PHOTO: AFP

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is planning to expand his already controversial new presidential palace with a 250-room residency building, Ankara's top architect was quoted as saying Thursday.

The vast new presidential palace on the outskirts of Ankara has already been bitterly criticised for its size and what some see as a misguided architectural fusion of Ottoman and modern elements.

The opposition has even compared the new complex - which takes up an area of 200,000 sq m - to the notorious Palace of the People of deposed Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

But Tezcan Karakus Candan, chairman of the Turkish Chamber of Architects in Ankara, said the organisation had information that an additional residency complex was to be built adjacent to the palace.

"The complex does not only consist of an unlicensed palace," Turkish media quoted her as saying.

"The residence where the President will live is set to be around 7,000 sq m, according to our calculations.

"It is about 4,000 sq m in surface. If each room is 20m, then it means he is building himself a residence with 250 rooms."

Known officially as the Presidential Palace but dubbed universally as the Aksaray (White Palace), the complex has 1,000 rooms and draws its architectural inspiration from Turkey's Ottoman and Seljuk heritage.

Erdogan, who became president in August after over a decade as prime minister, has insisted that the new palace is needed as a symbol worthy of what he describes as the "new Turkey", a fast-growing and diplomatically powerful nation.

A senior presidential official on Thursday lashed out at accusations the palace had been built without proper legal permission.

"These claims have no basis. We have a licence that granted us a construction permit as well as another licence for the use of the building," deputy chief of the presidential administration Metin Kiratli told the official Anatolia news agency.

"Therefore, there are no administrative problems," he added.

Controversy over the palace soared after Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek told a parliamentary budget committee that the total cost so far was 1.37 billion Turkish lira (S$786 million), around double the original price tag.

Even one of Erdogan's oldest allies, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, admitted "this was not a small sum of money."

The first foreign guest in the palace is set to be Pope Francis when he visits Ankara at the start of his three-day visit to Turkey on Nov 28.