Esra Akcan

was born in Ankara and now lives in New York, where she works as a postdoctoral core lecturer at Columbia University and teaches graduate seminars at New School-Parsons School of Design. Akcan received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from Middle East Technical University, and her MPhil from Columbia University, where she is also about to complete her doctoral degree.

Akcan has received numerous awards and fellowships including Columbia University Doctoral Scholarship (1998-2005), Graham Foundation-Carter Manny Award of Special Recognition (2003), Mellon Foundation Fellowship (2002), DAAD (2001-2002), Kinne Travel Grant (2002), KRESS/ARIT Fellowship (2000), and Special Mention at “Cem Culture House Architectural Competition” (with Mualla Erkiliç, 1996).

She taught architectural and landscape design studios at METU, and did yearly doctoral research in Germany through Berlin Technical University. Akcan has various published articles in journals and books such as Journal of Architecture, Architectural Design (Great Britain), Journal of Architectural Education (USA), Architectural Theory Review (Australia), 9/11 New York-Istanbul, Arredamento Mimarlik, XXI, Domus m, Mimarlik, Defter, Toplum Bilim, Studios, (Turkey). She guest edited a special issue on globalization for Domus m (February-Mach 2001) and published (Land)Fill Istanbul. Twelve Scenarios for a Global City (2004).


The "Siedlung" and the "Mahalle"

The intertwined history of the modern residential neighbourhood in Europe and Turkey

The intertwined history of the modern residential neighbourhood in Turkey and Germany serves to point out the shortcomings of a polarized discussion of Turkey and Europe, and more broadly, shows how histories restricted to single nation-states do not help understand processes that occur at a trans-national level. Esra Akcan describes how the egalitarian architecture of prewar Germany was interpreted for the Turkish Republic, where it became a status symbol for a new class of bureaucrats. Migration and cultural exchange in directions opposite to those commonly known are shown to undermine reified concepts of “East” and “West”.

By looking at the construction of modern cities and the “other”, Esra Akcan analyzes the meaning of melancholy: “In a world where modernization is defined as the ‘universal’ processes guided by the ‘West’, in a world where the ‘West’ is perceived as the subject of history, while the ‘non-West’ as its inferior translation, the ‘others’ that are excluded from this definition of ‘universality’ live through a loss or lack of a natural right. This is the natural right of being a part of this history, of belonging to the process of modernization that is conceived as the inevitable ‘universal’ achievement. This is what I would like to call the melancholy of the geographical ‘other’.”

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