Akcan Explores Urban Renewal of Berlin's Immigrant Neighborhood

January 14, 2015

A recent series of lectures by Esra Akcan, associate professor of architecture, are complementing a larger project of hers that is exploring the Internationale Bauausstellung Berlin (IBA Berlin). During this academic year, Akcan lectured on the subject at Cornell, Princeton, and Rochester universities, and submitted related articles which are being published in the journals Art Papers and Perspecta; and anthologies The Death and Life of the Total Work of Art and Notes on Critical Architecture: Praxis Reloaded. IBA Berlin was a mid-80s international building exhibition that commissioned internationally acclaimed architects for the urban renewal of Berlin's Kreuzberg district with a predominantly noncitizen population from Turkey.

"I'm exploring a theory of open architecture that evolves from a discussion of these topics in relation to the noncitizen rights to the city," says Akcan. "This type of discussion requires an architectural history method that gives voice not only to the architects and policy makers, but also to the immigrant inhabitants, which I'm attempting to configure through a narrative genre inspired by oral history and storytelling, rather than sociology and ethnography." Akcan's forthcoming book on the subject is titled Open Architecture and the Noncitizen.

In addition to work on her book, Akcan recently delivered several lectures including "The 'Occupy' Turn in the Global City Paradigm" at Northwestern University and "Open Architecture and the Noncitizen" for AAP's Department of City and Regional Planning. She contributed to the 2nd Istanbul Design Biennale, held in November and December, under the theme "The Future Is Not What It Used to Be," with her article and manifesto collection "A Manifesto for Collecting and Translating Manifestos," as well as the organization of an oral history event under the theme "1960 Manifestos." Her article on the 14th Venice Architecture Biennial, "Is a Global History of Architecture Displayable?" will appear in the forthcoming issue of ARTMargins (4:1).

Akcan is an architectural historian who situates her research and teaching practice in debates encompassing the global history of architecture, the emerging critique of Euro-American biases of visual histories, and the emerging struggle to rethink the status of the nonwestern in architecture history. Her previous books include Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey and the Modern House (Duke, 2012); and Turkey: Modern Architectures in History (Reaktion/University of Chicago Press, 2012, coauthor Sibel Bozdoğan).

By Rebecca Bowes

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