Talk: Esra Akcan

Chicago, United States

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News from the Living Room: Storytelling and Participatory Architectural Writing


JAN 16, 2013, 6 PM.


This talk will explore the International Building Exhibition (IBA’1984/87), which commissioned acclaimed architects from all over Europe and North America to transform the predominantly Turkish immigrant neighborhood Kreuzberg in Berlin. Architects brought in for the design of public housing projects included Aldo Rossi, Rob Krier, Oswald Matthias Ungers, Alvaro Siza, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, John Hejduk and many others. Akcan discusses this urban renewal project as a microcosm of the history of urban housing, a significant moment in the postmodernist and deconstructionist debates in architecture throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and an example of the attendant relationship between housing and international immigration policies. Using a narrative genre inspired by oral history and storytelling, Akcan gives voice not only to the architects and policy makers, but also to the immigrant inhabitants. Research related to this talk was recently featured in Akcan’s contribution to the Istanbul Design Biennale, 2012: “Urban Renewal and its Discontents: Kreuzberg—IBA ’84/87.”

Esra Akcan is an assistant professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her architecture degree from Middle East Technical University and her Ph.D. and postdoctoral degrees from Columbia University. She has taught at Columbia University, New School, Pratt Institute, METU, and Humboldt University. Akcan has received awards and fellowships from the Graham Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin, the Clark Institute, the Getty Research Institute, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Mellon Foundation, DAAD, Kinne, and KRESS/ARIT. She is the author of Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey, and the Modern House(Duke University Press, 2012), Turkey: Modern Architectures in History (co-author Sibel Bozdoğan, Reaktion, 2012), (Land)Fill Istanbul (124/3, 2004), and Çeviride Modern Olan (YKY, 2009).

Following the lecture, both of Akcan’s recent books, published with the support of the Graham Foundation, Architecture in Translation and Turkey: Modern Architectures in History, will be available for purchase in the Graham bookshop.


Image: Esra Akcan, Freedom of Information (collage portraying International Building Exhibition (IBA) buildings, printed on satellite dish), Istanbul Design Biennale, 2012