METU Architecture Faculty Building
Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, provides one of the best educational programs in the country and their Architecture Faculty Building is one of a kind.
This is the text version of my video on this beauty:
I recently became uncle and this makes me feel great. Yes, my sister gave birth and we have a baby boy now. On this video I will show you one of the best architectural schools in Turkey and I will dedicate this episode to my nephew and to all newcomers, to build a better future.
The Design of Architecture Faculty Building in METU
I made the shootings of this video just a week before my sister gave birth, when she asked me to accompany her while submitting her master thesis. So she, me and my back-then-not-born nephew got in the car and drove to the campus. We had some unpleasant moments at the security gate, but I will tell about it at the end.
Although I visited this place before, coming here with a pregnant woman made me see it in a different way. I realized that great designs can have issues too, which can be easily hidden. But let me first show you around.
The Architecture Faculty Building of METU is a design by a couple, Behruz Cinici and Altug Cinici and the construction was completed in 1963. They were the winners of a competition for the campus of the university and its buildings.
Aga Khan Awarded Studio
Since then their studio created bunch of modern buildings, which are seen as modern Turkish architecture’s early samples. Perhaps the most popular one is their innovative design of Turkish Parliament’s mosque. It is a great interpretation of modern and tradition. The project received Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995.
All about Concrete but there is more
OK, let’s come back to the university: Like as many other buildings by this design studio, seeing everywhere concrete, more concrete and only concrete, inside and outside, makes you tell that this Architecture Faculty Building is a minimalist and also brutalist building. Even though I am not keen on categorizing buildings, this is a -let’s say- concrete fact you are facing here.
But materials themselves don’t mean anything if there is no idea behind them, right? So the idea here is worth to talk about.
It is hard to tell the form of the building at once. It is not only because the building is big, but also the design itself leads to such result. Rather than a whole block, the building consists of yards and galleries, which are interlaced with each other without any corridors.
I find this approach super cool, because by this not only spaces, but also people are engaged with each other. Architects of METU Architectural Faculty Building wisely created different levels too, which is helping to create diversity and also to break the perception of a huge volume.
The Architecture Faculty Building has three departments under one roof: Architecture, City Planning and Industrial Design. That integrated design approach allows close relationship between these departments too. And although the building inside is spacious almost in every corner, it still welcomes you. No matter how brutal it looks. Yes, being able to flow from one space to another smoothly is so much exciting.
But no matter how excited you are, if you are pregnant you need to first find a spot to sit down, right? Well we did so, but here comes the tricky part.
We couldn’t find a chair with a simple backrest. I don’t know it is the minimal or brutal part of the project, but it is a bit cheerless not being able to sit and lean back comfortably. While these seating units will look fantastic on an Instagram post, they are giving you pain on your… body parts which are touching them.
But please don’t get me wrong, I am not being rude here. I am just mentioning how designers can miss essential things for the sake of a pure design.
(this part is not included in the video)
And not only this building made me put this on the table.
Just before printing her thesis, me and my sister found a little typo mistake which can be corrected within seconds. I mean really half a minute job, at most. So she took her MacBook out from her bag, another super cool design, as most of us will agree, and a USB flash drive which has her thesis inside, the latest version she prepared at home.
But guess what, that super cool laptop does not have any usual USB port, instead it has USB-C port. I understand we should follow new technologies, new opportunities, but why they can’t provide both type of ports? I mean, why they are pushing us not using all drives we have. This is not ecologic at all.
Well maybe some of you will blame us that we are not using virtual drives and so on, but come on I understand no CD drive on laptops, but a small simple additional USB port is that much trouble to skip?
So for that less than a minute job, we had to go to the library and wait minutes for a computer to get free. Again I am not being nerd here, but it is really annoying spending time like that.
(end of the excluded part)
What is Getty Foundation?
OK, enough with complaining and let me talk about a program called Keeping It Modern. It is a project by the Getty Foundation and they offer Planning and Implementation Grants to support the conservation of modern architecture.
The Architecture Faculty Building was awarded by this grant in 2017 and by this, the foundation aims to find solutions to the distortions of building elements and its long-term energy performance problems. Plus, the university will use this study as a prototype for the conservation of other buildings on the METU campus and also to raise public awareness about the importance of preserving Turkey’s modern architecture.
If there is one thing which is as important as the conservation, it is to share these efforts, to make them reachable, so it would be worth to preserve, right? This brings us to the point, which I mentioned at the beginning.
The Angry Lady at the Security Post
When we reached the security gate, after waiting ten minutes on the line, yes final season is crowded times, the lady on the gate told us that we should go to another gate, since my sister is already not a student but a graduate. So she cannot pass through the main gate.
We told that we at least deserve a warning, we waited that long under this heat, yes it was a hot day, and if the point to separate entries is to reduce the lines, then does it matter if we already waited on that line, right? Plus, by thinking that she would develop empathy, we told that my sister is pregnant.
She did develop something, but it was far away from empathy. She said: “I was working when I was nine months pregnant, what is the big deal? Beside, you are not gonna walk, you are in the car!”
Well, when someone is not ready to communicate, no need to insist to have a conversation. And don’t get me wrong, we do respect the rules, but still we deserve a warning. They could simply match a warning with the car’s plate number and be strict on second attempt. Or let’s say they got tough instructions and doing their job, then why this attitude, while there are tons of ways to lead people professionally.
Anyways, what is more disturbing is that a friend of my sister later visited us in the university, and she had the same talk at the gate too. They told her you are graduated; you should go another gate. She said she didn’t receive any warning and won’t drive five minutes more. They said they cannot do anything and she got so much pissed off and just pass the gate without waiting.
Guess what? No one came to her while we were there, and she got out from that exact same gate, and yet no one told her anything. Come on guys! At least mean what you are saying.
The Main Question We Should Have Asked
But let’s not forget one thing: This kind of discussion can be forever. If you will ask security members, they will tell why and how they are doing their job, if you are asking visitors they will tell about their rights. But all these shouldn’t be the main topic we have to talk about. These are just results.
Politicians use this trick a lot. With the help of media, they are putting on table some questions and makes us express our feelings, which in most scenario ends with a burning conflict. And for us of course it is easier to tell how sensitive we are on that topic, rather than discussion the question itself.
On our sample, what we should have discussed is the fences itself. We do not need fences! Especially around educational hubs.
I told this before and I won’t be tired of telling it again and again, but I admired a lot when I visited couple of universities in Singapore and saw not a single security post or any kind of fences. For sure they have security members and cameras everywhere, but not visible to me. No one stops you, no one prevents you from shooting photos or using the buildings. Stop building fences any more!
Better future can be created not only with better designed buildings and cities, but also by making them reachable, usable, touchable. No matter how cool this Architecture Faculty Building is, it is nothing if you build fences around.
At this moment I could talk about Schrödinger’s cat, but I already talked too much. If you are with me on this one, if you are also against building fences, then share this post with your friends. Share the idea of the future without any border.
If not for yourself, then do this for our newcomers.
To Atlas & Toprak
For joining our family
And bringing us hope and love
To better future
Web Site of METU Architecture Faculty
About METU Architecture Faculty Building (all in Turkish)
About the Mosque of Grand National Assembly