Ankara (1929-35)/ From Paper to Product: Testing Architectural Ideas on Foreign Soil

Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the Turkish have gradually been searching for their own identity in the aspects of arts and architecture. With Seljuk and Ottoman architecture taking important precedent and influencing the early works in the period due to the historical impact in that geographical location, what occurred after that was the growth of foreign influence due to the commissioning of various German and Austrian architects to erect buildings and monuments in the Master Plan of Ankara, new capital of Turkey.

Seyfi Arkan is one of the local Turkish architects whose architectural projects and style encompassed the spirit and history of Modernism and the influence of foreign architects. The Ataturk Marine Mansions designed by Seyfi Arkan featured neither Seljuk or Ottoman style, but instead used the Bauhaus style. Some would argue that since he had frequent and close contact with Germany and its architectural developments, he developed into an agent of translation between Turkey and Germany, and thus became one of the first Modernist Turkish architects.

This was represented well in Arkan’s works, with the usage of horizontal windows, white walls and flat roofs – all signs of the trending Modernism. The open plan, the separation of the interior and exterior, and the functionalist methods of constructing collective housing were reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s defining ideals, and this represents how big an impact the international architecture community had on the architects of Turkey at the time. Arkan’s mentor, Hans Poelzig, was a strong advocate for architecture that sought the individual expression of artist genius, instead of a holistic, toned-down prototype. This was represented in Arkan’s more private works in Ankara during the period of 1933-35, when he built the Foreign Minister’s Residence and the Makbule Atadan House for Ataturk’s sister. The long, horizontal roofs which functioned also as sun shading devices, large pergolas which were carried by minimalistic, slim columns, the large horizontal windows which gave a sense of transparency to the building in combination with the open plan, were all features of the two aforementioned Ankara projects, as well as previous student works that Arkan had come up as proposal during his studies under Poelzig.

Eventually, Seyfi Arkan went on to win many awards for his architecture projects, which were renown for their inclusion of Turkey’s economic and social conditions when building. He is also well-established as one of the founding fathers who established the local architects of Turkey in their home country.

Sources: “Architecture in Translation”,  Esra Ackan. p.67. Published 2012, Duke University Press.

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