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ISTANBUL REVEALED: Digital Representation and Design Interventions in a Historical City

ISTANBUL STUDIO Special Topics ARCH 916 Master of Architecture Program Professor Weldon Pries

This exhibition includes drawings of students’ design projects from the Istanbul Studio, in the Department of Architecture at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

 Istanbul and Turkey are emerging as Western, Islamic, and secular societies. Strategically located at the intersection of Europe and Asia, and at the center of world trade routes over land and sea, Istanbul expresses historic and present-day cultural influences in its layering and form, and embraces the diversity of its people, cultures, and civilizations.

The city is located at the intersection of the Bosphorus, Golden Horn, and Sea of Marmara. The majestic skyline of domes and minarets of the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and Suleymaniye form the backdrop for the city on the water. Within the Historic Peninsula are the communities where ethnic groups of Muslims, Jews, Armenians, Greeks, and recent immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East have settled.

The Istanbul Studio addresses the role of cultural influences and architecture in the evolution of the city and its form and urban design. The focus of the studio is the future formation of the city in relationship to its history, urban spaces, and the water’s edge.

The project phases include research and documentation of urban design with focus on the methodology of analysis for cities, followed by urban design proposals of “urban modification” in the historic city. The intention of the studio is to contribute to the understanding of a significant “world city” in an important geopolitical region, and of urban design in cities globally.

The class travels to Istanbul in September to experience its culture, survey its architecture, and document the studio project sites.  In addition, Wentworth students participate in seminars and design workshops with students and professors at Istanbul Technical University and Mimar Sinan University.  A trip by ship to Bursa, Turkey, the historical Ottoman city in Asia is included in the travel itinerary.

I began the Istanbul Studio for Wentworth architecture students following my sabbatical term in Istanbul in 2008.  I also spent time in Bursa, Edirne and Izmir in Turkey, and in Damascus and Aleppo in Syria.  I was drawn to Istanbul and to this region for their importance in our understanding of urban history.

Istanbul is a city of many layers – numerous civilizations and cultures (Greek, Byzantine, Ottoman) are represented in its history and these traces are present in the fabric of the present city. Throughout its history, it has been the crossroads of culture and trade, east and west between Europe and Asia, as well as north and south, between the Black Sea and Russia, and the Mediterranean countries. Its geography of hills, intersected by the Bosporus, Golden Horn, and the Sea of Marmara is the setting for the city on the water with its fabled skyline and architecture. And it is city of great vitality and magnificence.

Istanbul, in addition to its importance in history, location, and form, is a dense, complex, and lively city of nearly 18 million people. It is a city marked by differences in the intersection of secularization and Moslem traditions. Istanbul is a city of diversity of culture and dynamic strategic importance in a critical area of the world.  As much as a city can represent a microcosm of the world – its humanity, intersection of history, politics, and religion, traditional values and the desire for progress and secularism, great architectural monuments in an expanding city, and the interconnection of diverse cultures and people – Istanbul is pivotal to our understanding of cities in a pluralistic world.

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