Posted March 13th 2017 at 9:13 am by
in Urban Memory

Urban Memory in Turkey: Transforming Idle Facilities into Active Facilities

This is the second piece in a two part series about how physical spaces in cities relate to the past. This series is written by Elif Yasemin Azaz , a CoLab Radio contributorwho works with Architecture for All in Istanbul, Turkey.

An Iconic Moment From Places For Women and Children Project
An Iconic Moment From Places For Women and Children Project

The Architecture For All Association aims creating awareness and design solutions to social problems in urban and rural areas in Turkey. I have been volunteering for Architecture For All since March, 2016. The Idle Village Schools Project is the first project of the association. Below are three examples of projects that each demonstrate a different way physical spaces can be repurposed to protect urban memory and allow people to have a voice in local decision making processes.

Kargı, Çorum

Kargı, Çorum is located in the north of Turkey. Villagers wanted to keep students local, but that was difficult because of the old building of Kargı Ferhat Akbulat Primary School. Students had begun to go to other schools outside the village because the building was very old. Their parents didn’t want them to go to other villages’ schools because of the distance. The villagers actually started to build a new building but couldn’t complete it because of financial problems.

In the late summer of 2012, project managers from Architecture For All reached out this school through local officials in Kargı, Çorum. The school had two buildings: one was old and idle, the other one was incomplete. The volunteering team from Architecture For All decided to turn the old building into a library and dining hall. The unfinished building was to be completed as the new school building.

Kargı Ferhat Akbulut Primary School
Kargı Ferhat Akbulat Primary School. 

Landscape Works and Construction Team at Kargı Ferhat Akbulut Primary School

The construction team at work in Kargı, Çorum. 

Architecture for All posted online to ask for volunteers to help with the construction phase of the project. 180 people applied and the 10 volunteers selected completed the construction work in 11 days. The construction work included repairing heating system and painting and insolating the buildings. 

Kargı Ferhat Akbulut Primary School-2
Kargı Ferhat Akbulut Primary School

Ovakent, İzmir

The project in Ovakent, İzmir was transformation of an idle village school into a business school for the disabled (the Ovakent Business School for the Disabled).

This project had 2 phases. The first phase was a design atelier (which means workshop) and the second was the implementation phase that included repair of the school, working on the dining hall, and then a façade/landscape atelier.

The design workshop came to fruition by the participation of volunteer college students and Architecture For All members between 25th October – 9th November 2013. The design atelier included field trips to the project area and to other existing schools for the disabled. In the second week of the workshop, design ideas were developed for the business school.

The implementation phase of the project was between 9 – 23rd July 2014. The construction team was 37 people including college students and members of Architecture For All. The implementation phase included work on the school, dining hall, and landscape work.

The School Building in Ovakent, İzmir
The school building in Ovakent, İzmir. 

The Construction Team at Work in Ovakent, İzmir
The construction team at work in Ovakent, İzmir. 

Landscape Work in Ovakent, İzmir
Landscape work in Ovakent, İzmir. 

Places For Women and Children

The places for women and children project was a collaboration between Architecture For All Assossication and Mother Child Education Foundation between June 2014 and January 2016. The project’s aim was creating places for women and children to decrease problems related to social inequality they face in their villages.

Five idle buildings in five villages in the province of Tokat were transformed into places for local women and children. All the idle buildings were used as local primary schools or their facilities.

One of the most important steps of the project was to ask women and children’s opinions about what they wanted in the place. They wanted space to work/meet, a computer room, playing space for children, and kitchen space. If you’re interested ,here are the online booklets in Turkish for the projects in three of the villages: Keslik Village, Ayvalı Village and Akın Village.

Playing Room For Children
Playing room for children. 

Working-Meeting Room
Working/meeting room. 

The Architecture for All Association is one of the earliest unions that deals with social problems by bringing them up, providing the participation of local people in the decision making processes and designing based on those two things in the rural and urban areas of Turkey. The Association’s work not only helps solve social problems but also increases the level of architecture consciousness in the project areas. It shows how good idle facilities could be treated and put value in the physical and social environment in the place.

In this series, urban memory refers to remembering the past through physical spaces. The cases given are examples of natural conservation, war memorials and transforming idle facilities into active facilities in urban and rural areas. All of the examples are related to each other in terms of their location or relationship between the past and the present time.

Furthermore, effective conservation and working with local people examples show that how much social value could be created in physical spaces no matter how bad their past was.

All photos from

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