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Proceedings of the panel “Still on the Margin: Reflections on the Perspective of the Canon in Architectural History” (1st Conference of the European Architectural History Network, Guimaraes, Portugal, 17-20 June 2010)
Reasons for the persistence of the canon

Institutional Reasons behind the Persistence of the Canon

Structure and Organization of Architectural Education in Turkey
Zeynep Aktüre

Texte intégral

  • 1 While I was drafting this paper in March 2010, 139 universities (45 of which had foundation status) (...)
  • 2 Increase in the options has apparently not affected the top-ten placements in schools of architectu (...)
  • 3 These are cited as the characteristics of the “canon” in several publications, including Gülsüm Bay (...)

1In Turkey, higher education is supervised by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK in Turkish, for Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu), established after the military coup of 1980.1 For at least a generation, YÖK has been an emblem of the loss of academic freedom and autonomy. The YÖK Student Selection and Placement Centre organizes the country-wide examinations that determine admission to university programs. They are among the most crucial events of the year for 1.5 million students and their families.2 Some of our students at the Izmir Institute of Technology (IZTECH) say that after many years of test-solving in preparation for these exams, they are requested to read and write for the first time in their introductory architecture courses. Additionally, the reorganization of secondary education after 1980 eliminated previously compulsory courses in sociology, psychology, philosophy, logic, and art history that provided a foundation for contemporary critical theories in architecture. However, the students overtly express relief, preferring easy-to-find factual information, which may not even require a trip to the library, to the type of analysis that requires effort. The canon, with its emphasis on form and style, and its preoccupation with widely acknowledged and published master architects and masterpieces,3 seems to fulfill this expectation.

  • 4 Importantly in this respect, Gülsüm Baydar, “Teaching architectural history in Turkey and Greece: t (...)

2At IZTECH and the Middle East Technical University (METU, Ankara), where I pursued my education with a period of teaching assistantship, the three compulsory courses in the undergraduate curriculum follow the chronological model. They offer a compass in the “canon” to both students and instructors in their rush from prehistory up to the present in three neutrally named courses (History and Theory of Architecture I-II-III). The fact that so little space is allocated to this group of courses in undergraduate education may be explained by the technocratic vision and mission statement of these universities. Their schools of architecture are also bound to the hierarchical organization of higher education in Turkey. The technical umbrella seems to encourage a focus on structural systems, construction technologies, and building materials and physics in their curricula, supported occasionally by courses from neighboring engineering departments. This trend is strengthened by a formalism mastered in the computer-aided architectural communication and modeling courses. The effects of this preference for the formalist and engineering aspects of architecture over its social and ideological aspects are indeed observable in the way our students handle design problems. We often criticize the fact that only three semesters of architectural history and theory are required.4

  • 5 Ibid., p. 86.
  • 6 Uğur Tanyeli, “Mimarlık eğitimi ve mimarlık tarihi : üretken bir gerilim alanı [Architectural educa (...)
  • 7 Zeynep Çelik, “Editor’s concluding notes” (presented for a three-issue query on teaching architectu (...)

3Nevertheless, for those of us seeking to break away from the canon, METU and IZTECH offer a unique opportunity because their official teaching language is English. In other schools most students, especially at the undergraduate level, rely on translations of standard texts such as Vitruvius or Benevolo.5 The scarcity of Turkish-language publications challenging the canon is one of the possible reasons underlying its persistence in Turkey. Commenting on this scarcity, Uğur Tanyeli also offers a framework for interpreting the differences in the organization of architectural history and theory courses at METU and IZTECH compared to another group of universities, including Yıldız Technical University (YTU, Istanbul). Tanyeli contextualizes the beginnings of architectural historiography in Early Republican Turkey when a novel cultural projection was being produced to distance the nation-state from the world of Islam. The modernization project undertaken was of such a nature as to be often referred to as “Westernization.” However, the imported history of Western architecture was considered a ready package into which local historiographers were expected to insert the neglected architecture of the nation, to provide it with its long overdue acknowledgment.6 Turkish architectural historiography, emphasizing forms and style, preoccupied with master architects and masterpieces, tends therefore to uphold the canonical hierarchies, but in a historiographic construction isolated from the rest of the world.7

  • 8 Reported by Sevgi Aktüre, during the first session on the period 1983–2006 in a recent compilation (...)

4In the 1960s, Doğan Kuban of Istanbul Technical University (ITU, Istanbul), was a pioneer in the revival of interest in Anatolian-Turkish architecture, while in the 1960s and 1970s, Bülent Özer of the Academy of Fine Arts (now Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul) introduced architectural theory integrated with a modernist historiography to Turkey. The pioneering role of ITU and the Academy in architectural historiography is in line with their being the oldest schools of architecture in Turkey. Both were established in the 1880s: the former was modeled after the German engineering school and the latter after the French fine arts academy. METU, on the other hand, was modeled on the American system. The University of Pennsylvania was directly involved, thanks to financing from UNESCO. It established an education center in Turkey for the training of professionals required in developing countries. The first to open in 1956 was its Higher Institute of Architecture and Urbanism. Perhaps this international perspective is the reason why early graduates recall no mention of local architects in the courses on contemporary architecture.8 When it was established in 1995, IZTECH adopted the METU model.

  • 9 Mentioned by Gülsüm Baydar, “Teaching architectural history in Turkey and Greece: the burden of the (...)
  • 10 Since the initial drafting of this paper in March 2010, the representations of architectural and cu (...)

5The four decades between the establishment of these two schools saw the development of programs specializing in Sinan, the classical age of Ottoman architecture, and 19th-century Istanbul architecture, emphasizing form, style, and building technology.9 Contemporary curricula reflect the fragmentary structure of Turkish historiography that resulted. Schools offer a set of four or more architectural history and theory courses with names that fail to convey an uninterrupted continuity from the Antiquity to the present, unlike the History and Theory of Architecture I-II-III series. Instead, ITU has a set consisting of Ancient and Byzantine, Turkish, European, and contemporary architecture. Separate courses are devoted to Islamic architecture and later Ottoman and Republican Turkish architecture at Gazi University (Ankara), to Anatolian Turkish architecture at YTU, and to Turkish architecture at Anadolu University (Eskişehir), reminiscent of the monuments represented on Turkish banknotes.10 Some of the instructors for this latter group of courses are art historians with PhDs in architectural history. Our survey failed to produce full information about the academic background of the instructors in architectural history, so we cannot comment further on the topic.

  • 11 Zeynep Çelik, “Editor’s concluding notes” (presented for a three-issue query on teaching architectu (...)
  • 12 Ibid., p. 121.

6The material that could be collected came from the information packages recently published by many of the schools as part of the EU Bologna integration process. Let us conclude by citing Zeynep Çelik, who underlines the importance of the restructuring of the degree programs in the European Union “at a time when the elements of European identity are widely debated as a fundamental issue loaded with political underpinnings.” The concept of “European” architectural heritage necessitates redefinition with increasing attention to regional components and an implicit reexamination, expansion, and diversification of the canons. This work is already underway.11 In this regard, Turkey seems to be integrated into the European Union already, in displaying “a homogenization [under the national Council of Higher Education and/or in the European Higher Education Area] in architectural education simultaneously with a continually growing fragmentation of regional trends [as expressed in the variety observed in the undergraduate architecture curricula of the most popular schools of architecture].”12

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Notes

1 While I was drafting this paper in March 2010, 139 universities (45 of which had foundation status) were coordinated by YÖK. By December 2012, the overall number had reached 188, of which 72 have foundation status and 13 are located outside of Turkey, including five in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The latter are among the schools that offer four-year undergraduate architecture programs, whose number rose from 33 in March 2010 to 62 in December 2012. These figures alone would reveal the difficulty of the present attempt to discuss the structure and organization of architectural education in contemporary Turkey.

2 Increase in the options has apparently not affected the top-ten placements in schools of architecture where we find the major public universities in the four most populated cities in Turkey: Istanbul (Istanbul and Yıldız Technical, and Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Universities), Ankara (Middle East Technical and Gazi Universities), Izmir (İzmir Institute of Technology and Dokuz Eylül University), and Bursa (Uludağ University), in addition to Eskişehir (Anadolu and Osman Gazi Universities). This present survey is based on the data available in the official websites of these schools by March 2010 when most were in a process of adaptation to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System upon a request from YÖK. This adaptation process may have been the reason for the missing information on the teaching plans or course contents in some program websites.

3 These are cited as the characteristics of the “canon” in several publications, including Gülsüm Baydar “Teaching architectural history in Turkey and Greece: the burden of the mosque and the temple,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), vol. 62, no. 1, March 2003, p. 85; Dana Arnold, “Preface,” in Dana Arnold, Elvan Altan Ergut and Belgin Turan Özkaya (eds.), Rethinking Architectural Historiography, London, New York, NY: Routledge, 2006, p. 1520.

4 Importantly in this respect, Gülsüm Baydar, “Teaching architectural history in Turkey and Greece: the burden of the mosque and the temple,” op. cit. (note 3), p. 85 observes three distinct categories of departments—in major public universities with relatively generous resources, in well-funded foundation universities, and in public universities in the provinces. The architectural history curricula largely reflect this status of the schools. The first group including ITU, YTU and METU “offer a broad range of graduate and undergraduate courses. In the majority of the others, architectural history is limited to a four-semester survey.” Ibid., p. 89 further observes that in this latter group of schools the curricula are largely adopted directly from leading universities.

5 Ibid., p. 86.

6 Uğur Tanyeli, “Mimarlık eğitimi ve mimarlık tarihi : üretken bir gerilim alanı [Architectural education and architectural history : a productive tension area],” Mimarlık Fakültesinde Eğitim, Seminer 15-16 Haziran 1998, 1998, p. 93.

7 Zeynep Çelik, “Editor’s concluding notes” (presented for a three-issue query on teaching architectural history), Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH), vol. 62, no. 1, March 2003, p. 112; Uğur Tanyeli, “Mimarlık eğitimi ve mimarlık tarihi : üretken bir gerilim alanı,” op. cit. (note 6), p. 93.

8 Reported by Sevgi Aktüre, during the first session on the period 1983–2006 in a recent compilation of the oral history of METU Faculty of Architecture published for the school’s 50th anniversary. See Sevgi Aktüre, Sevin Osmay and Ayşen Savaş (eds.), 1956’dan 2006’ya ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi’nin 50 Yılı. Anılar: Bir Sözlü Tarih Çalışması, Ankara: ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi, 2007, p. 218–9. The compilation documents the gradual development of a specialization in architectural history at METU after a reorganization of higher education in Turkey by YÖK in 1983. Within all departments of architecture, four fields of specialization were defined: design, building science, architectural history, and restoration and preservation of historical monuments. Some of the architectural historians now teaching at METU completed their PhD studies in US universities that pioneered education in architectural history education, like Cornell. They had won scholarships awarded by YÖK for the education of future university professors. See the statement of Elvan Altan Algut in the same compilation, p. 272. They now jointly teach the compulsory three-semester undergraduate survey, each focusing on the part within their own field of specialization. Ali Uzay Peker, on the same faculty, has criticized this policy, saying it results in the loss of the overall picture of uniformity attested by the Anatolian-Turkish architecture thesis of Kuban. See the roundtable on the period 1956–66, p. 104–5. Peker himself is an art historian who completed his PhD at ITU on cosmology-based symbolism of monumental Anatolian Seljukid architecture and teaches the parts referred to in Kuban’s thesis. For the development of graduate education and research on architectural history in Turkey, see Elvan Altan Ergut and Belgin Turan Özkaya, “Explorations: Architectural History in Turkey,” EAHN Newsletter, no. 2, 2009, p. 26–35. URL: http://www.eahn.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Newsletter_2009-2_lowres.pdf. Accessed 15 January 2012.

9 Mentioned by Gülsüm Baydar, “Teaching architectural history in Turkey and Greece: the burden of the mosque and the temple,” op. cit. (note 3), p. 89 as specialized courses in later curricula.

10 Since the initial drafting of this paper in March 2010, the representations of architectural and cultural monuments on Turkish banknotes were replaced by those of important personalities in Turkish history.

11 Zeynep Çelik, “Editor’s concluding notes” (presented for a three-issue query on teaching architectural history), op. cit. (note 7), p. 121.

12 Ibid., p. 121.

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Zeynep Aktüre, « Institutional Reasons behind the Persistence of the Canon », ABE Journal [En ligne], 1 | 2012, mis en ligne le 02 février 2012, consulté le 21 octobre 2017. URL : http://abe.revues.org/85 ; DOI : 10.4000/abe.85

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Auteur

Zeynep Aktüre

Professor, Izmir Institute of Technology, Izmir, Turkey

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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