ISTANBUL (1930-40s) / TYPOLOGY OF INSTITUTIONAL DEVICE: MODEL VILLAGE — IDEOLOGY OF CIVILISATION IN RURAL AREAS

ISTANBUL (1930-40s) / TYPOLOGY OF INSTITUTIONAL DEVICE: MODEL VILLAGE — IDEOLOGY OF CIVILISATION IN RURAL AREAS

After the consolidation of the RPP in 1931, villages and peasants in rural areas became the focus of Kemalism’s “civilising mission” to “manufacture Turkish citizens” and infuse Nationalist consciousness to the countryside. Ideologically, socially, politically and educationally, this mission is crucial to facilitate the six tenets of Kemalism.

The stratification of city and village was immense in Turkey with around 80 percent of the population living in rural villages in the 1930s. It was important to the program of the Republic People’s Party (RPP) to modernize villages and train peasants (koyciiluk), so they could colonize the countryside progressively (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Old vs New government publication showing difference between “existing villages” and “model village in Etimesgut” (1938)

To achieve that, the RPP utilized village architecture (kiy mimarisi), another spatial device, to educate peasants of the republican ideologies. By the end of 1933, the state had built 69 model villages with assigned “village missionaries”. Their job was to help dissolving the walls of backwardness and illiteracy, to hear people out and to solve their problems in the assigned village (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2 Cover of La Turquie Kemaliste celebrating peasantry and land work under the guidance of Kemalist idealism (1938)

With great emphasis put on the architecture of the village, it became another architectural specialisation for architects back then. According to Abidin Morta in 1935, professional architects should lead village designs, and should refer to local traditions, materials and construction technology of the village. In model villages, the implementation of scientific planning and modern village building design were encouraged to replace the backward and primitive ways. They were often planned with an ideal and diagrammatic approach to constitute ideal Republicanism.

A republican model village typically resembles disciplinary factory towns from the nineteenth century, as it usually has village houses neatly organised in rows. Besides, the landmark of most traditional Turkish villages, the mosque, would be absent due to the RPP’s agenda of secularization from the Ottoman past.

The model village project by Kazim Dirlik (1933) was not arranged in a grid but also disciplinary in a way with rows of houses arranged concentrically (Fig. 3). There were zones reserved for various programs from residential to educational in the plan. The perfectly centralised plan symbolises the social utopian vision of an ideal republican village, which closely resembles the Garden City by Ebeneezer Howard.

Fig. 3 Circular plan of an “ideal republican village” by Kazim Dirlik (1933)

Another clearer example would be a uniform grid-based model village designed by Burhan Arif (1935). The plan shows a rectangular grid with identical village houses organized linearly (Fig. 4). The shopping street in the middle of the plan has a small square on both ends, which one was for governmental functions and another was for cultural-didactic purposes.

Fig. 4 Model village project based on a uniform grid by the “urbanist architect” Burhan Arif (1935)

Most of the cases, the model villages did not follow the original “populist” ideal of adapting to local traditions and instead, disregarded the original settlement typology. This was attributable to the failure in earlier projects in Anatolia with less heroic approach. Hence, imposition of model village plans was encouraged when necessary, as elaborated by Zeki Sayar (1936).

However, architect Aptullah Ziya insisted on a “populist” approach where the model village design proposal was based on the vernacular architecture of the existing village. One of his ideal village designs (1933) has a diagrammatic square plan with a village square and coffeehouse in the middle (Fig. 5). The village coffeehouse would replace the social role of mosque as a “modern temple”. Contrasting to the material use of reinforced concrete by Zeki Sayar, vernacular materials were used instead, including mud brick and flat earth roofs for cooling. He also acknowledged traditional vernacular village houses built by villagers themselves and produced drawings of prototypical mud-brick houses for different types of sites.

Fig. 5 Design for an ideal village by Aptullah Ziya laid out on a square plan (1933)

In overall, model villages have a strong expression of modernity, rationality and efficiency in their diagrammatic plans, and most of them were extremely similar as if they were manufactured products from the state. They were necessary active agents and reformers of civilisation within the passive peasant population.

Reference:

  1. Bozdogan, S., 2002. Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic, Univ. Washington P.
  2. Kezer, Z., 2015. Building modern Turkey : state, space, and ideology in the early republic.
  3. Karpat, K. H., 1963. The People’s Houses in Turkey: Establishment and Growth. Middle East Journal, 17(1/2), pp. 55–67.
  4. Gül, M., 2012. The emergence of modern Istanbul: transformation and modernisation of a city, London: I.B. Tauris, pp. 82.
  5. Bertram, C., 2008. Imagining the Turkish house: collective visions of home, Austin: University of Texas Press.

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