THE ISTIKLAL CADDESI MONUMENT AND THE BUYUKADA MUSEUM | Istanbul | Unit 21 | 2011
Awarded Distinction for Design & Merit for Thesis
RIBA Silver Medal Nomination in Thesis Click to see Thesis
This year’s work has been an architectural investigation to a particular event in Istanbul’s history – the Istanbul Pogrom, a large scale riot directed against the minorities of the city that took place on the 6th September 1955. This event forever changed the demographics of the city, transforming it in the proceeding 50 years from the traditionally multicultural site it was, to the relatively monocultural city it is now.
Very little evidence remains of the pogrom but for the 216 photographs of one photographer; Demetrios Kaloumenos, and these form the basis of the architectural projects carried out. Following preliminary research into the languages of protest and photography, I took these photographs back to the city with the aim of locating the original photographer’s focal points on the pogrom. In doing so, I wanted to make explicit that whilst the photographs are endlessly reproducible, editable and debatable representations of a space and time; they nonetheless have their basis in a measurable, specific spatial relationships, those between Kaloumenos and the city.
Finding, inhabiting and then modelling these spatial relationships informed the design of a monument to be built to the event and the lost people, a monument that reverses the language of photography, projecting the images of the riot back out from their focal points and ‘developing’ them as anamorphic physical material embedded as shrapnel in the public face of the city. This ‘architectual protest’ allows the photographs, and traces of the event, to be read back in the actual locations it took place.
Mapping these projections on to the street produced a territorial map of the avenue, colour coded to indicate the presence of different signifiers (political symbols, the army, riot damage etc.) and where they lie on the street in Kaloumenos’ rendition of 1955. Doing so provided the inspiration for the design proposal of the monument; projecting elements of riot damage depicted in the images from the focal point of the photograph back to where they were once originally sited in the street; then continuing this projection so it cuts through the present day urban fabric, and taking the intersection between the image projection and physical construction as the form of the monument. The two images below illustrate the projection of one part of the monument, a timber staff that once leant against the column of St. Antuan’s Church (now a bakery “Borek Center”). As this projection meets the bakery, its form is taken through the masonry, glazing, serving counter and internal finishes, and these intersections are expressed as a solid metal slice through the solid material of the shop.
Along with the other projections chosen this gave the elevation of the monument show below (colour coded to indicate the different items of riot damage projected). These pieces of metal “shrapnel” sit within the fabric of the buildings, appearing from the street as abstract scars in the face of Istanbul’s famous Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue). When viewed from Kaloumenos’ focal points however, the anamorphic nature of the monument is revealed, and its forms line up to retrace out elements of the photographs exactly where they once appeared in the avenue.
The final and major proposal is for a museum dedicated to the event based on the island of Buyukada off the coast of the city centre. This island was the former religious centre of the lost Greek population of the city, and the site that the museum is based on is the first piece of confiscated land returned to the Greek Church since the event. The project begins with the design of five exhibits, 3D forensic reconstructions of particular spaces of the pogrom as shown in the photographs. The museum is then designed around the exhibits to allow visitors to assume the photographer’s position and view these exhibits framed exactly as they appear in the images. Furthermore, visitors are guided around the exhibits in particular ways to allow them to gain new perspectives on the reconstructions that aren’t shown in the photographs.
The intention is to replicate the notion of the superimposition established in the first project, conflating the supposed ‘objective’ view of the image with the subjective experience of finding it, and seeing people of the present day inhabiting it as its new subjects, questioning the relation of the viewing subject both to the image and the event. I hope that this method will give the event a new sense of relevance in its audience, who finding themselves ‘framed’ in relation to reconstructions of the event, and also by creating their own new photographs of it, will be prompted to start a public dialogue not just about the objective nature of what these images prove of the pogrom, but also their subjective evaluations of how they fit into its story.