Critically Now: Esra Akcan: Homo oeconomicus of the 'New Turkey': Urban Development of Istanbul in the 2000s

Four photos of birds-eye view of developed water inlet

Developer’s Utopia from Landfill Istanbul: Twelve Scenarios for a Global City (Exhibition and Book, 2004). collage / Esra Akcan

Critically Now: A Pop-Up and Growing Event Series

Esra Akcan is an associate professor in the department of architecture and the director of the Cornell Institute for European Studies at Cornell University. She completed her architecture degree at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey, and her doctorate of philosophy and postdoctoral degrees at Columbia University in New York City. Akcan received awards and fellowships from the Graham Foundation, American Academy in Berlin, UIC, Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin (Transregional Studies Forum), Clark Institute, Getty Research Institute, Canadian Center for Architecture, CAA, Mellon Foundation, DAAD, and KRESS/ARIT. Akcan's research on modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism foregrounds the intertwined histories of Europe and West Asia. Her book Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey and the Modern House (Duke, 2012) offers a new way to understand the global movement of architecture that extends the notion of translation beyond language to visual fields. Her book Turkey: Modern Architectures in History (Reaktion/University of Chicago Press, 2012), coauthored with Sibel Bozdoğan, is part of a series that aims at an inclusive survey of modern world architecture and is the first volume in any language to cover the entire 20th century in Turkey. Akcan's new book Open Architecture: Migration, Citizenship and the Urban Renewal of Berlin-Kreuzberg (forthcoming in 2018) defines open architecture as the translation of a new ethics of hospitality into design process, and exemplifies different inclinations towards open architecture (or the lack thereof) during the urban renewal of Berlin's immigrant neighborhood, by giving voice not only to the established and cutting-edge architects, but also to noncitizen residents. Akcan has authored more than a hundred articles in scholarly books and professional journals of multiple languages on critical and postcolonial theory, modern and contemporary architecture in West Asia and its diasporas in Europe, architectural photography, immigration, translation, globalization, and global history. She has participated in exhibitions as an artist by carrying her research beyond writing to visual media.


Throughout the last decade, the Istanbul Municipality, backed up by the Justice and Development Party's governmental support, initiated legal measures and large-scale projects that irreversibly changed the architectural and urban structure of Istanbul. This talk unpacks the transformations in the urban fabric, including the construction of new housing estates and the conversion of the existing informal settlements as well as the erasure of urban icons and the construction mega-projects by exposing the government's legal and economic policies that enabled new construction, top-down planning, lack of commitment to public sphere, and neo-Ottoman symbolism.

This event is part of Critically Now: A Pop-Up and Growing Event Series and the New Conversations Series at Cornell Institute for Comparative Modernities.

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