Draft Table of Contents (Thesis Prep Document Countdown: 25 days more or less)



Picturesque and Picturesque’

- Cultural theory and identity construction (Appadurai…)

- History of constructed identity in Taksim/Turkey (Republican era modernism, Taksim mosque depate, AKM debate)

- Cultural Landscape (artificiality, constructedness, naturalness, evenness, difference)

Secularism and Islam

- History in Turkey (address founding of republic, political timeline, progression)

- Debates today: headscarves, AKP, threat of military coup, bid for EU membership, public representation (city seal of Ankara, historicist building campaign)


Atatürk Kültür Merkezi

- History

- Mission

- Current Controversy: maintain or demolish and rebuild?

- Existing Program (block diagram + spreadsheet)

- AKM in popular imagination / public role

Precedent Studies

(size, location, founding/current mission, who funded/built it, public/private, activities that occur there, target audience/constituency, production of social space, degrees of difference…)

- Lincoln Center

- Seattle Public Library

- Idea Stores

- Rivington Place

- Peabody Terrace?

- Walker Art Center?

- Cardiff Bay Opera?

- Example of mosque cultural center…?


Istanbul Demographics / AKM Constituency

Cultural Centers in Istanbul and Turkey

- Map locations (size, type, audience)

- Typologies (bank, shopping mall, performance space)

Role of “Culture” in Istanbul Life

- What is considered “culture”?

- High and Low culture (do these categories exist? How distinguished?)

- Participants in cultural activities (How do they participate? How often? Where?)

- Importance of cultural activities to the life of the city and its inhabitants

Site Research

- Site Plan

- Transportation study (public transportation modes, frequency, accessibility; vehicular traffic, pedestrian flows)

- User group study (see above—interviews w/ public in Taksim Square)

- Study of Cinemas in Taksim/Beyoglu (map location, size, group into high/low culture + clientele, identify type of film)

- Study of Music Performance Spaces in Taksim/Beyoglu (map location, size, group into high/low culture + clientele, identify type of music)

- Study of Theaters in Taksim/Beyoglu (map location, size, group into high/low culture + clientele, identify type of theater)

- Study of Mosques in Taksim/Beyoglu (map locations + sizes)

- Study of Churches in Taksim/Beyoglu

- Land Use (Commercial, mixed, residential, cultural…)

- Photographic survey of fashion? (starting with website + photos downloaded)


- Tabanlioglu, architect of the AKM

- Omer Kanipak, founder/manager of Arkitera, Turkey’s premier architectural website

- AKM staff: building director, ensemble directors

- People involved in cultural productions: music, arts, theater, film

- Patrons of the AKM

- Public inhabitants of Taksim Square

- Jenny White, BU


Proposed Program

- Multiple options (what they produce: degrees of difference, social conditions)

- Additions/Subtractions

- Final Program proposal

Registers of Difference…?

Categories of evaluation…?


- Things I’ve read

- Things I intend to read


Deploying the picturesque in a cultural mode

Picturesque : Landscape = Picturesque’ : Cultural Landscape

Picturesque - an artificial/constructed mode of revealing the actuality of the environment or landscape through sensory experience in motion, especially along a serial/unfolding/undulating path that carries the viewer through layered and juxtaposed perceptions of space.

Landscape - a constructed physical environment, possibly understood in a pictorial mode as an expanse of scenery that can be seen in single view from one perspective; visible features of an area of land, including physical, living, abstract, and human elements; [an extensive mental viewpoint].

Picturesque’ – an artificial/constructed mode of revealing, through sensory experience, some of the complex and interwoven relationships and positions which, taken collectively, approximate/approach the cultural/social actuality, especially as achieved by enticing the subject through layered and juxtaposed perceptions of space which that subject would not otherwise inhabit.

Cultural Landscape - the layering/overlapping/imbrication of varied subjectivities which are multiply projected by a vast number of isolated/embedded perspectives onto particular groups that may be identified as possessing common social, physical, or temporal relationships; a subjective abstract construct; [an extensive mental viewpoint].


Humphry Repton's Picturesque

The single view is never complete. It is only by moving through space, and viewing the same thing from multiple positions, that one can acquire a richness of understanding. Deceit eventually leads to revelation.


be strategic. be-e strategic. s-t-r-a-t-e-g-i-and-c.

…interventions in places become self-constitutive acts. The state intervenes to control space, to dictate the meaning of urbanity, to shape the evolution of the public sphere, and to suppress contending ideologies. It does so by strategically placing squares, parks, statues and monuments, cultural centers, and public buildings; by monitoring architectural styles; by dictating urban design and development agendas.[1]

One quote that didn't make it into my paper for Schoeberlein's Culture Wars, but which reminds me at this juncture of the usefulness of the concrete. Although Çinar is operating more at the level of urban design here, what we do as architects is generally, I think, a similar act of strategic spatial arrangement, only deployed at a different scale. I've been wading somewhat self-indulgently (and unapologetically) in cultural theory and all that talk doesn't necessarily inspire doing or making...which is why it's safe and indulgent and warm and fuzzy. Okay, time to get strategic and specific.

[1] Alev Çinar. Modernity, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey: Bodies, Places and Time. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005: 101.


more useful things from last weekend

While in New Haven, I ran into R. Mehta who's in the Rex studio (the program: an opera in Istanbul) and he pointed out that the Istanbul Biennial, which ends this weekend, has an exhibit "Burn it or not?" in the Ataturk Cultural Center (in Turkish, Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, hence AKM). And yes, the title of the exhibit does indeed refer to the AKM...burn it or not? Keep it or destroy it? Some excerpts:

Turkey, as one of the first non-western modern republics and a key player in the modernization of the developing world has proved to be one of the most radical, spectacular and influential cases in this direction. But, a fundamentally crucial problem is that the modernization model promoted by the Kemalist project was still a top-down imposition with some unsolvable contradictions and dilemmas inherent within the system: the quasi-military imposition of reforms, while necessary as a revolutionary tool, betrayed the principle of democracy; the nationalist ideology ran counter to its embracement of the universality of humanism, and the elite-led economic development generated social division. Populist political and religious forces have managed to recuperate and manipulate the claims from the “bottom” of the society and have used them to their own advantage.


To critically reexamine “the promise of modernity”, we have chosen some of the most significant modern edifices and venues including the AKM, İMÇ, Antrepo, santralistanbul and KAHEM. They symbolically and physically mirror the various facets and models of urban modernization in the city. In these sites, the utopian project of the republican revolution and modernization meets with the lively, ever-changing and “chaotic” reality, at once harmonious and conflicting. They are sites where the top-down vision of the modern city clashes with the bottom-up imaginations and actions promoting difference and hybridity.


Architecture has always been closely related to political projects. Public institutions are the most visible images of this relationship. This has not changed in the Modernist age, despite it being a more democratic period of history; instead, it has been enforced. But modernism is, in fact, idealist and utopian, and based on economic, political, socio-cultural and technological progress, solidarity, social justice and democracy. It envisions perfectly the ideal of a modern political utopia. Monumentality and the spectacular become the characteristic language to express such an utopian vision. Situated in Taksim Square, designed by Hayati Tabanlıoğlu and reconstructed in the early 1970s, AKM is İstanbul’s major public site of cultural and political ceremonial events and performances by the “high arts”. Its archetypal socio-modernist style makes it a perfect symbol of the utopian vision of the Turkish Republic: that of a secular, progressive and modern nation-state guided by Atatürk’s farsightedness and political power.

However, this highly interesting edifice is now facing a fatal crisis; it is now under the threat of being gentrified by the force of the neo-liberal economic power, hand in hand with the populist political power. A fancier, “post-modern”, probably corporate-like complex is being planned to replace it. Its demise and gentrification are now intensely debated. Its origin is full of irony. Newly constructed, the building was burnt down in 1970 during a performance. A few years later, after huge efforts in reconstruction and conservation, like a phoenix, the building rose from its ashes. AKM is now facing a second round of fire -this time, by the forces of globalization, a neo-liberal economy and political cynicism.

AKM, burn it or not? This is the question.


Constructing the Ineffable

I left New Haven this weekend thinking that the YSOA’s conference on sacred space (Constructing the Ineffable: Contemporary Sacred Architecture) had little relevance to my thesis. I didn’t expect it to be especially revelatory, but I had hoped that Friday’s topic, Memory and Identity, would at least give me something to think about. Now, a few days out, I’m thinking that maybe it did give me something to consider.

The weekend’s proceedings lingered over the question of what makes space sacred, with words such as “transcendent,” “beautiful,” “aesthetic,” and “symbolic” surfacing repeatedly. While I am not explicitly interested in spaces of transcendence, I am concerned with spaces that transport or translate—that re-frame the view or re-position the viewer. Everyone at the conference seemed to agree that sacred space was somehow special, apart from daily life, and that its meaning was personal yet also communal, deriving its significance in part through historical narrative. I suspect that these same terms apply to the kind of space in which I am interested—space that shifts and re-frames. At the very least, both types of space are trying to do something, to provoke an altered state, rather than merely accommodating or sheltering.

I’ve been preoccupied with the construction of identity and the way such identity is perceived. At the conference, Miroslav Volf spoke of sacred memory that shapes identity to define sacred communities, claiming that architecture becomes sacred only when it is a site of remembrance, of sacred memory. He also spoke of the manifestation of the sacred as unpredictable and experiential—its meaning found through experience and presumably thus variable based upon individual subjectivity. Interestingly, Volf framed [sacred] memory as concerned with the future (“remembering the future”) insofar as memory shapes our hopes (for the future) and hope influences memory. Sacred space is thus a space not only of experience—of the past made present—but also a horizon—the present projected to the future. Sacred memory defines horizons of expectation: Who we are; Where we belong; What we expect; and What or Whom we ultimately trust.

These four parameters, which Volf identifies as abstractions of the marks of sacred memory, are certainly connected to memory and identity. Whether or not they actually characterize the sacred doesn’t really matter to me, but I do feel the need for some other term to stand in for sacred (a term which I haven’t yet found, or at least haven’t claimed). I’m interested in space that—through its relationship to memory, to self-consciousness, to the positioning of self—looks toward Volf’s “horizons of expectation” without being explicitly sacred space itself.

Given that the manifestation of [sacred] space is unpredictable and experientially based, and that it occurs through inherently personal processes and with probably a high degree of specificity, how can it be…designed? Or, as Mark Taylor put it: if the sacred is ineffable, if it cannot be thought, then how can it be figured? His response was to suggest that perhaps it may be figured through de-figuring. I don’t know what this means, but it sounds snappy. Also snappy was his assertion that violence and the sacred are inseparable, that both provoke terror. He asked what it would mean to memorialize, to imagine, to figure absolute terror, to figure the unfigurable.

Peter Eisenman suggested one possible approach in presenting his Berlin Holocaust Memorial, noting that what is important is the memorial’s silence, its denial of image. And Taylor suggested that (rather than dwelling on the absence of sacred representation) architecture should embody the failure of representation through its gaps and fissures—through the “unavoidable imbrication of the rational and the irrational.”

Gaps and disjuncture; silence; layering; re-positioning experience; shifting perception by moving through space—these are the thoughts that I’ve come away with. Hopefully not so ineffable after all.