GSD Course Bulletin - Fall 2011

01502: Istanbul: Between Contour and Silhouette (STU 0150200)

Urban Planning and Design
Option Studio - 8 credits - Limited enrollment
Tuesday Thursday 2:00 - 6:00  

Course Tools for this course (Canvas)

A. Hashim Sarkis

Course Description

Istanbul: Between Contour and Silhouette Linking Architecture and City Around Istanbul's Suleymaniye ComplexSummary:The studio explores how an architectural project could relate to the city through the manipulation of the ground line and the skyline. The practical aim is to propose a series of autonomous but related architectural interventions around the Suleymaniye complex in Istanbul in order to connect it physically and programmatically to the surrounding quarters of the old peninsula, while partaking in the definition of the city's skyline. The focus will be on manipulating the contour lines and skyline, but also on extroverting the courtyard building type.The Suleymaniye Complex:The Suleymaniye Complex (or kulliye) is named after its patron, the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent (reigned 1520-1566). It was designed and built from 1551 to 1557 by the famous court architect Sinan and is considered one of his more mature and sophisticated urban complexes. In addition to the mosque, described by Le Corbusier as the "sphinx," the Complex consisted of a religious school or madrassa, a library, a hospice, a hospital, and a bath-house or hammam. Even though these programs were added incrementally around the mosque, they compose a very well calibrated frame around the mosque giving the Complex a remarkable internal coherence. These different buildings also carefully mediate between the mosque's skyline and the panorama of the city and between the constructed ground of the Complex and the topography of the hill.Recognized by the UNESCO as a world heritage site in the mid-80s, the Suleymaniye has undergone several changes in function but has maintained its powerful hold on the city's skyline. Despite the radical changes in its uses and in the surrounding area, it remains one of the most remarkable urban complexes in the city.Context:Historically, the district surrounding the Suleymaniye housed the "white collar" employees of both the kulliye and adjacent government institutions. Since the 19th century, the state institutions and the court have moved to the northern part of the city, leaving the old city and the area around the Suleymaniye to slowly deteriorate. By the mid 1980s, at the time when it was classified as a World Heritage site, this area had become a notoriously crime-ridden neighborhood with small scale manufacturing outfits. A revitalized urban economy and a succession of active mayors have actively turned the city around but in some cases at the expense of such historic areas as the Suleymaniye. Some of the urban interventions around it have also led to cutting it off from the rest of the city. In 2006, the national government passed a law to protect and renew some culturally significant sites including Suleymaniye. While the complex is being restored, the surrounding neighborhoods are also undergoing transformation, much of it highly contested by the working class neighborhoods and by the historic commission. One of the aims of the studio is to help re-enliven the surrounding neighborhoods by connecting them better with the complex itself as a source of urban vitality and formal clarity.The Contour and the Silhouette:The site and the complex fall between two formal strategies that the studio aims to explore. On the one hand, the relationship between the ground plane of the complex and the topography of the hill exemplifies contouring as a method of extracting a planar succession out of a three dimensional form.On the other, the skyline of the complex is a masterful example of how a buildin's silhouette can capture, in its intense articulations, the three-dimensional identity of a building or city. The studio proposes to recast architecture between these two geometries of extraction, an incremental iteration from contour to form and an intense inscription from skyline to full volume. The Panorama and the Courtyard:The panorama has long provided a representational and experiential structure to the city of Istanbul. There is no city that shows as much face as Istanbul. Because of its topography and the way that the waterways drop the middle ground, the city affords the frequent unfolding of panoramas. Since Sinan, Istanbuli architects have understood and mastered the techniques of placing a building in the city as panorama. In a sketch he made of the city during his visit to the city in 1911, Le Corbusier highlighted the relationship between the different parts of the city based on the panoramic logic. This logic eventually inspired his image of the contemporary city.In parallel, and despite their deep interiority, the courtyard buildings of the Suleymaniye complex offer another way of understanding the relationship between a locality and the totality. By internally exposing the sectional changes of the hillside and by relating directly to the sky, they uncover another repertoire of moves that link architecture to city.The studio aims to explore, expand, and forge continuities between these seemingly opposed repertoires.The Campus and the City:In the past twenty years, several university campuses have been built in and around Istanbul. Whether as reclaimed industrial sites or as new developments on the fringes of the city, these campuses have invariably suffered from isolation and lack of connection to their surrounding neighborhoods. They have also negatively affected the continuity of these neighborhoods and their vitality. By returning to the Suleymaniye complex, the studio aims to draw out strategies of continuity that could be applied to the contemporary context of Istanbul.Studio Project:As a way of linking the complex to its surrounding neighborhoods and of helping them benefit from its recent rehabilitation, the studio proposes to insert a technical school and visitors services in the gaps that exist between the historical frame of the complex and the surrounding city. In the first two weeks of the semester, the students will develop an in-depth analysis of the complex and its relationship to the surrounding city based on the themes of the studio. Each student will then develop his/her own design project for the identified sites. The aim is to generate a coherent urban design strategy out of a series of discreet architectural interventions.Organization:The studio is sponsored by the Aga Khan Program at the GSD. A trip to Istanbul will be scheduled in the first week of October when the students will also be able to attend a conference organized by Le Corbusier Foundation and Bilgi University in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Le Corbusier's visit to Istanbul. The studio is the fifth in a series of studios on Istanbul taught in parallel with studios at Bilgi University by Professor Han Tumertekin.The studio will also benefit from the participation of Erkin Ozay, research fellow in the Aga Khan Progam at the GSD.The final review is on December 12, 2011.