Support to METU Faculty of Architecture from Getty Foundation
An important support has been received from the Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation to protect the building of the Faculty of Architecture at METU. Under the "Keep It Modern" initiative of the Getty Foundation, an international grants initiative, the prestigious structures of the world's non-profit institutions are supported. The buildings to be supported are expected to be one of the best examples of modern architecture and have an important public function. With this award, the value of the building of the Faculty of Architecture at METU is to be proven worldwide.
METU Faculty of Architecture is listed among the 12 modern buildings from 9 different countries including Russia, America, Germany, Italy, England, Brazil and India, for which the Getty Foundation allocated a budget of $1.66 million this year. Stating that the Getty Foundation's support for METU Faculty of Architecture Project is of great importance, Prof. Dr. Ayşen Savaş, who is executing the project, talks about the award: "The direct translation of the award to our language is 'Keeping it Modern'. In the past few years, the iconic structures of important architects such as Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as the Sydney Opera House and Kosovo National Library were taken under protection as part of the project in which the works that need protection, have original materials and construction technique and bear the architectural characteristics of the 20th century were selected. METU Faculty of Architecture, the project of which was selected in a competition and started to be constructed in 1963, is one of the most important works of the period with the material used, construction details, sense of space and the educational program that overlaps with it."
The award presented by the Getty Foundation, known for its contribution to art and architecture worldwide, research on preservation of cultural heritage and support for these fields, to the Faculty of Architecture of METU brings architects Altuğ-Behruz Çinici up to the global agenda. In addition, this award institutionalizes the place of METU Faculty of Architecture among the most important examples of modern architecture in the international environment as well.
We Learned Architecture in/from the Faculty of Architecture Building Designed by Altuğ-Behruz Çinici*
Ayşen Savaş, Prof. Dr.
METU- Department of Architecture
It is a privilege for students to learn architecture from the very building in which they study, and there are numerous examples of architectural schools around the world where students have this opportunity, including the Illinois Institute of Technology (Crown Hall) by Mies van der Rohe, the Yale School of Art and Architecture (A&A) by Paul Rudolph and the Harvard School of Architecture (Gund Hall) by John Andrews. The METU Faculty of Architecture can also be included on this list, based on its exceptional academic and architectural assets.
Learning from METU Faculty of Architecture
Arriving at the faculty building every morning and choosing either the closest path along the tree-lined pedestrian alley or the east entrance next to the parking lot is the first lesson that the METU Department of Architecture offers you. The content of this lesson, and indeed subsequent lessons, will be conducted individually depending on the subject that you want to learn in detail. Whether your chosen topic is the "aesthetics of retaining walls" or "architectural style"; or whether you feel that day that you would like to understand the intricacies of joints or the different techniques used on exposed concrete; or let's say, you are trying to write an article about "the relationship a building has with the ground"; what you should do is to take a small notebook and wander in and around the building for forty-five minutes.
The METU Faculty of Architecture offers in-situ practical courses during the progression of your undergraduate studies, covering a wide range of topics that may start with the campus as a whole or with particular focus on the faculty building. The gateways, staircases, landings, lighting elements, doors, structural system details, technical hardware and hundreds of similar elements unveil themselves, one after the other, over the years, until finally, in the last course, you learn that the architect can put his/her stamp on history with only a single building.
FIRST CLASS: ENTRANCES
At first sight, it is not easy to perceive that the METU Faculty of Architecture has more than one entrance. The reason for this is not only that the landscape hides these entrances, but also that each gateway has its own very strong identity. It is quite difficult, moreover, to talk about the existence of a clear hierarchy among these entrances. There is no one main entrance to the building, as the meticulous positioning of the masses and the complex plan layout create a variety. There is more than one starting point for each space organization and different functions flow into each other with varying proximity.
Entrance to the Dean's Office: A Classical Platform
Over the years, students have entered the faculty building from different gates for different reasons. For the students who enrolled in METU in 1980s, the Faculty of Architecture had only one entrance – the one leading to the Dean's office – as the others were kept closed for years for reasons of security. It was more than 15 years before the other entrances were opened to use, which made the "entrance to the dean's office" a major meeting point for the students and the faculty. While it was possible to approach this door from different directions, the meeting point was always the same: a raised platform of beige marble that served as a reminder of its peers in Modern Architecture and the triumphant platform of the Barcelona Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe. The platform is separated from the ground by three thick, wide steps, and no matter how carefully you look, it is impossible to understand how they carry the load and transfer it to each other. The natural stone platform and the "flying steps" that were adopted by such architects as Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe are a reinterpretation of a familiar Classic monumentality. While the gates, made from transparent glass, maintain the visual continuity of the platform, another set of steps that lead to the hallway mark the threshold between the outside and inside. After passing through the entrance gates, the same platform transforms into an entrance hall, masterfully changing the dimensions of the stone texture. The hall then flows through the volumes where administrative staff rooms and classrooms are located with material integrity and a ground relationship, or merges with another level to form the stairway landing that leads to the dean's office.
The Pool Entrance
Coming from the main pedestrian alley, the most prominent architectural elements of the entrance are the pool and the colonnaded arcade. This perfect entrance space, which is constructed with the minimum of materials and detailing, has been illustrated in numerous publications and has featured in many posters and digital media announcements. An elongated pool extending along the arcade, a concrete flume that feeds the pool, the natural stone and washed concrete texture that forms the floor of the arcade, the details of the connection of this floor texture with the delicate exposed concrete columns, the surface that reflects the wooden formwork of the concrete ceiling, the joint lines along the flat junction where the columns merge with the ceiling, the joint lines where the beaming shelter merge with the naked lighting fixtures and the serenity of the landscape elements surrounding them, all lead us to wonder at the inspiration for this extraordinary architecture.
As the late Prof. Feyyaz Erpi once said, "You should start your day at school entering from this arcade; it is calm and elegant, like a Japanese garden." The architectural inspirations behind this space remain a mystery, although we are aware of the great influence of Japanese minimalism on Modern Architecture, and we can look at Tadao Ando's or Kunio Maekawa's work to understand its extending power. The reflection of such complex interactions onto the architecture of Behruz Çinici comes to the fore at this point.
Another gateway accesses the building from the northern parking lot, created with unique form, an unexpected appearance and unusual materials. The structural and visual integrity of the architectural elements used here are the best summary of the architectural design principles developed between the two World Wars. Interpreted through Brutalism in Architecture and improved with the technological advancements of the time, especially in building construction, architects such as Paul Rudolf, Kenzo Tange and SOM frequently used concrete eaves at the entrances of their public buildings, with the common goal being to create a thin autonomous "concrete shell" that stood detached from the rest of the building structure. The concrete eaves defining the northern entrance of the faculty building are a very successful outcome of the experimental structural researches of the postwar period. The entrance was built with elegance, and it would be no exaggeration to claim that the reason for building it at a higher level was to achieve the right scale for the eave, rather than simply to provide light to the workshops.
The exposed concrete eave, which is only 19 cm thick, is decorated with thin timber moldings that extend transversely along its length. The plastic formal gesture of the eave carries the staircase into the building and hides its landing, while the thin band of glass cuts the façade to illuminate the dark corridor. The part of the eaves that covers the first two steps is bent upwards following the angle of the drainpipe, and this curve in the concrete emphasizes the "entrance". The corners are chamfered at 1 cm to prevent the joints from wear over the years. From a distance, the eave looks like it is suspended in the air, but as you come closer, you realize that there are four columns supporting it, separated elegantly from the eave with a 3 cm gap, and their thickness reflects the dimensions of the eave. Similarly, the 10 cm-wide bands at the edges of the eave reflect on the thickness of the balustrade. The concrete balustrade is a masterpiece in itself with its elegant design, sitting on two metal stands to underline its construction technology. A closer analysis reveals the fact that this balustrade is actually made out of two different materials, and the first exam question for the students here is: How are these two different materials poured into a single mold to form a unified totality? The answer is that one of the materials is mosaic. Over the years, with the constant touching of hands, the mosaic has today come to look like marble. Who knows how hard it is today to make mosaic surfaces; it is indeed a miracle. The other material is reinforced concrete, and the detail where the balustrade reinforcement joins the overall structure is the subject of the second exam question.
The floor patterns and the arrangement of cut stones are the subjects of another course, but here it is important to state that stone layout at this entrance is very symmetrical, like nowhere in the rest of the building, which increases the monumentality of the eaves and creates a visual contrast with its plasticity. This entrance, which hides itself very successfully, is another architectural lesson in itself.
The western entrance of the faculty building is an architectural wonder. The arched, wooden door, which has become known as the "han kapısı" over the years, symbolizes the resistance of individualist Modern Architects to the "Universality" of Modern Architecture. The entrance carries traces of such master architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn and Alvar Aalto, who managed to be singled out in the mainstream Modernism. This double door is rarely fully opened, and access to the building is generally through a smaller door cut into one of the wings. The interpretation of this entrance type, which is referred as the "kuzulu kapı" in traditional architecture in Turkey, could be the main question in the second exam.
All Courses / Modern Architecture
All of the lessons that you can learn from this building and the research required to cover its wide range of architectural qualities, are the subjects of a forthcoming book. During an interview conducted for a specific chapter in this book, Behruz Çinici said that the METU Faculty of Architecture was one of the buildings he designed early in his life, and that today he regards it as the one he liked the most. Although he gave no detailed information about the inspiration behind the architecture, between the lines he indicated that he met some of the masters of Modern Architecture and saw their masterpieces, but completed the design of the faculty building much before that. "I did not do what they did," said Çinici, adding, "If what I do resembles what they do in any aspect, the reason must be studied and discovered." In the preface of his book "Improvisation in Architecture", Çinici listed the architects that he considers to be the "masters" that influenced him during his education, including Emin Onat, Paul Bonatz, Clemens Holzmeister, Gustav Oelsner, H. Kemali Söylemezoğlu, Said Kuran, Mukbil Gökdoğan and Orhan Safa. A more comprehensive list of names would include Luci Piccinato and Erwin Heinle, from the conversations held with Çinici at different times, who were well known architects, urban planners and engineers and who completed important buildings and built environments that we now classify as Modern Architecture. Today, it is clear that these experts followed radically different approaches in their unique interpretations of Modern Architecture. In the early sixties, these architects were either successfully applying the "tropes" of Modern Architecture at the zenith of their profession, or were continuing their research on the implementations of such architecture. The Faculty of Architecture building can be regarded as somewhat of a latecomer to the "spirit of the era", although some may argue that it was designed "just in time", given the context in which it was produced. This magnificent building was certainly not an outcome of a lifetime of experience or maturity, as the architects were aged only 27–28 when they completed the design. If this claim is to be deemed accurate, then the resources of the "maturity" that the building inherits will need to be considered as a fascinating architectural research topic.
-Anılar. Bir Sözlü Tarih Çalışması. 1956'dan 2006'ya ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi-nin 50 Yılı, derleyenler Sevgi Aktüre, Sevin Osmay, Ayşen Savaş, Ankara: METU Press, 2007
-Ekincioğlu, Meral. Behruz Çinici, İstanbul: Boyut Yayın Grubu, 2001.
-Improvisation Mimarlıkta Doğaçlama ve Behruz Çinici, İstanbul: Boyut Yayın Grubu, 1999.
-Savaş, Ayşen. "A University is a Society", ODTÜ Projeler 1 Yarışma Projeleri 2007-2008. Sergi Kataloğu derleyen Ayşen Savaş, Ankara: METU Press, Mayıs 2008.
*(Biz Mimarlığı Behruz Çinici'nin Mimarlık Fakültesi'nde(n) Öğrendik) Mimar.İst, v.l, n.42, Winter 2011, pp.40-43.