Between being and becoming : identity, question of foreignness and the case of the Turkish house
Gürel, Meltem Ö.
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How were those narratives telling us about the Turkish House shaped? How did they come to contribute to the formation of our understanding of the history [and theory] of modern Turkish architecture? And respectively, how did they dominate our conception of modern Turkish identity? In light of these questions, this dissertation looks at the historiography of what is the so-called Turkish House as it emerged from Ottoman obscurity into the consciousness of the new Republic of Turkey, between the closing decades of the 19th century and the end of the 1930s. And, following the arguments of post-structuralist (architectural) theorists and the texts of the architectural historians in Turkey, this study intends to open up an ontological discussion around modern Turkish identity, and respectively around the Turkish House, as its architectural translation. Through looking at culturally and politically thick textual descriptions in journals, books, novels and stories; and visual representations in pictures, drawings, and architectural projects of the era, this study first of all underlines that idea/image of the Turkish House appeared and was formed as a response to the question of „foreignness‟. Then, from a de-constructive perspective, in order to challenge the term‟s de-facto usage, this study most productively brings the „foreign‟ voices of several architects - like Ernst Egli, Bruno Taut and Seyfi Arkan, who were practicing their designs in the late 1930s in Turkey- to the discussion, to reveal a more „dialogical‟, more „contingent‟, and more „pluralized‟ conception of the term modern, and to trace an alternative understanding of the Turkish House. Although in cultural and historical terms, the designs of these architects do not fit into the typological and stylistic principles of traditional dwelling forms, the works, which concentrates on not the „essential modern‟ character of the Turkish House, but the „inevitably national‟ character of modern house help us to position a more experimental, more spatial and more universalistic understanding of the Turkish House, rather than a stylistic, decorative, romantic, and culturally relativist one. In other words, through works, one can find a chance to shift from the morphological perspective of modern (and, of national); to show that the terms modern and national cannot be reduced into fixed architectural definitions; to portray a modern-national identity that is slippery, mobile, multiple, heterogeneous, incomplete, and subject to change; and more importantly, to surface an understanding of Turkish House not as a „thingness‟, as a being, but as a „movement‟, as a „becoming‟.
KeywordsModern (Turkish) Architecture
Modern and Tradition
1st National Architectural Movement
2nd National Architectural Movement
Tower of Babel
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