ISTANBUL (1930-40s) / TYPOLOGY OF INSTITUTIONAL DEVICE: PEOPLE’s HOUSE — INFLUENCE OF MODERNISM IN ARCHITECTURAL GESTURE
People’s House was established for promoting secular nationalism. According to RPP’s manual for Halkevi buildings (People’s Houses), the officials stressed that they had to “lead the advancement of modern architectural culture in Turkey as an example”. Other than the prominent site designation of the People’s House, the use of high-quality materials and detailing were implemented in their construction to emphasise their representational importance. However, it was suggested that the strong and pervasive exhibition of modern architectural features, including the formal elements and aesthetics of the façade that provided them with progressive connotations. Namely, these modernist elements include flat roofs, curved facades, towers, circular windows, projecting elements and geometric blocks.
The Kadiköy People’s House (Fig. 1) in Istanbul by Ruknettin Güney (1938) is a particularly strong emblematic example of modernist-influenced aesthetics.
The implication of varying opening sizes and shapes, that expresses different programmatic components on the façade, the use of flat roof and curved facades were all arranged in a modern approach with interlocking blocks (Fig. 2).
The assembly hall block with the rounded façade on the end was amplified with a line of circular windows on the side.The use of vertical slits and horizontal large windows on the outside shows the program of auditorium and classrooms on the inside respectively (Fig. 3). In addition to the S-shaped plan of the Kadiköy People’s House, the use of the L-shaped plan with a rounded corner as an entrance was also familiar in other types like the People’s House in Yalova by Sedad Centinas (1939) (Fig. 4).
At the aspect of programmatic arrangement in plan, larger spaces like hall, gym and auditorium were usually planned as an individual block that is also comprehensible on the outside. Then the other programs that require smaller spaces like library, classrooms and offices made up the main block. The arrangement of these blocks were typically arranged to create courtyard spaces for public exterior programs like festivals and concerts. For example, the People’s House in Bursa (1938) has a U-shaped plan to create an internalised public courtyard (Fig. 5).
Another program, the party offices of the RPP, were placed on the upper floors of the People’s House in some cases or designed as a separate building that connects the House through a colonnade like the People’s House in Manisa designed by Asim Kamiirciioglu (1938). In some unusual cases, the party office took up the entire upper floor to free up the ground floor for other purposes, like the People’s House in Eskisehir (1936) (Fig. 6).
In terms of construction, the People’s Houses were typically constructed with reinforced concrete for slabs, columns and structural walls with brick infill. However, the application of pitched tile roofs and stone slowly replaced the modernism-influenced use of materials for clear geometric forms. This transition in material use was a symbol of creating an official trend in expression of secular nationalism in the Republic of Turkey.
In short, the gradual progression to “civilization” through secularizing from the classic Ottoman and vernacular architecture had attributed to the architectural style evolution of the People’s Houses in Turkey, especially during the 1930s. From architectural education to populist education provided by the institutions, young architects were known of using modernist architectural gestures in the People’s Houses to embrace the Kemalist ideal of nation-state.
- Bozdogan, S., 2002. Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic, Univ. Washington P.
- Kezer, Z., 2015. Building modern Turkey : state, space, and ideology in the early republic.
- Karpat, K. H., 1963. The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth. Middle East Journal, 17(1/2), pp. 55–67.
- Touaf, L. & Boutkhil, S., 2009. The world as a global agora: critical perspectives on public space, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, pp. 5-11.