• Expanding the Media of Architectural Research: Native Boarding School Assignments and Architectural Settler Colonialism

    By
    Maura Lucking, Ph.D. Candidate, UCLA Architecture and Urban Design
     |
    Jan 21, 2022

    Maura Lucking, a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA Architecture and Urban Design, received the 2021 Gill Family Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship for her 
    dissertation project, “American Artisan: Design and Race-Making in Industrial Education, 1866–1924."

    As has been the case for many scholars, my dissertation research was fundamentally changed by Covid-19. While it quickly became clear that my ability to travel and access certain archives would be postponed, what I wasn’t able to anticipate were the ways in which research in the pandemic age would push me to develop new analytical methods in order to work with the materials that I did have access to. My research traces a settler colonial history of the U.S. Land Grant college program, including federally funded schools for Native American and African American students in that legacy and foregrounding the relationship between the land dispossession and exploitative labor practices that determined campus designs and the racially segregated industrial curricula that took place there.

    While I had planned to spend extensive time on-site at my case study schools, Covid meant pivoting to email exchanges with incredibly helpful and accommodating archivists, often supplementing those primary archives with materials at other institutions with the resources to make materials available digitally. Ultimately, it has shifted my emphasis on small-scale student work and issues of representation within these schools’ curricula in addition to spatial analysis of campus buildings and often difficult-to-access and digitize drawing sets. I am grateful for the support of SAH's Gill Family Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship for the ability to have such materials digitized for closer study at home.

    In part, this pandemic-mandated shift has also pushed me to consider how architecture figured into those schools’ curricula beyond design and building programs—that is to say, not only through labor but through ideology. These connections often took place obliquely, thanks to pedagogical theories of correlation, as instructors referenced architectural typologies and building materials in the teaching of say, essay-writing, world geography, or geometric proofs. The racialized thinking of Progressive era pedagogues went that such concrete, material examples were helpful for students unaccustomed to or racially incapable of abstract thinking. Building on the work of other historians on nineteenth-century race-science and architectural style, my research helps us understand how architecture was used as a metric of civilization in these schools (and, therefore, deculturalization and assimilation).

    The following two drawings, from the Minnie Linton collection of materials from Indian Schools at the Autry Museum of the American West, help to illustrate my point. They are taken from essays completed in 1899 by two Indigenous eighth-grade students at the Sherman Institute, an off-reservation boarding school in Riverside, CA. While they don’t ultimately figure directly into my dissertation, which focuses on older students at a series of different case studies, they have proven integral to shaping the way that I think about architecture’s role as a knowledge system in practices of cultural genocide and attuning myself to the subtle forms of resistance to or refusal of that settler colonial project that we can find in the colonial archive.

    Drawing by Joseph Lewis Wellington

    A Navajo Home

    From top: Drawing by Joseph Lewis Wellington (Pima), Eighth Grade, Sherman Institute; George Bancroft, “A Navajo Home” Eighth-Grade Report, Sherman Institute. Written exams and essays created by 7th- and 8th-grade students from the Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, Folder 3, Minnie H. Linton Collection Collection of Indian School Papers & Drawings, before 1919, MS.1316, Autry National Center, Braun Research Library.

     

    It seems that the students were asked to write something reflecting on traditional and modern forms of housing and their relationship to civilization, to their culture, and to the future development or improvement of both their land and their race. These are all reasonably common tropes for Indian education in the late nineteenth century, but it’s unusual to see them worked out so materially, referencing built structures in a way that both is and is not metaphorical. The resulting drawings and short essays address the development of housing amongst the Pima people and the Navajo or Diné, both historically and in the present time.

    The two students take the assignment in quite different directions, one emphasizing transformation of architectural typologies and the other arguing for the appropriateness of their housing type to their lifeway and culture. The first, by Joseph Lewis Wellington, starts with a wickiup, a brushwood round house typical of numerous nomadic peoples across the southwest, but labeled as “primitive.” We then see a literal trajectory of development traced, first to a simple, single-room structure, which looks like it could be a mixture of sod or rammed earth with timber, and finally to a timber framed, multi-room structure with a pitched roof, a fully westernized home. He closes with “one more step to go…” It’s illustrating a process of transformation, or what was often called improvement, visually. Architecture as a visible index of racial development—both biologically and in reference to Native peoples’ acceptance of the single-family home and allotment homestead in rejection of communal living arrangements, on traditional homelands or reservations. In some ways, this first drawing is an illustration of the ideal outcome of such an assignment, then.

    The second drawing from the Linton collection opens up a different direction, however: the possibility of refusal, however subtle, of this narrative of racial improvement and civilization by eighth-grade student George Bancroft. To find this counternarrative to the official government curriculum, we must carefully read between the drawing and its accompanying text. It depicts a naturalistic rather than schematic representation of a hogan (hooghan), a dwelling and ceremonial building type commonly built by the Navajo people from the fifteenth to the early twentieth century. The dome-shaped structure, an interlocking core of Ponderosa pine or cedar plastered with mud and bark, isn’t depicted as an isolated specimen as in Wellington’s drawing, but rather is integrated into a scene that emphasizes its everyday use, as well as the visual resonance between the dwelling and the geological forms of the monadnocks beyond, sacred sites for the Navajo on the Colorado plateau.

    Bancroft’s text argues for, rather than against the Hogan, explaining its role amongst many different forms of dwelling, living, and sustenance within his family: “The reason why we live in this kind of hut is because if we stay in one place our flocks and herds will have nothing to eat. So we wander over the desert land roaming from place to place with our flocks and herds in the summer and seeking shelter sometimes in the foothills but often high up on the mountainsides in the winter, where we can secure fuel for our rudely constructed Hogan which we call our home.”

    Apparently, the hogan could even explain well-behaved children, as his description of the housing typology was followed immediately by an explanation of his experience of life within it: “As a rule, in my tribe each man rules his home by kindness with no abuse or scolding. The children are hardly ever punished for the reason that we never disobey. We are always dutiful, respectful, and obedient to our parents and they are always considerate, kind, and thoughtful of us.”

    It is only a throwaway line at the end of the essay that (alongside its acquisition and filing alongside Wellington’s essay and other student work) makes it clear that the assignment was intended to address the relationship between housing and civilization: “Since the last several years we are realizing about civilization, so we have begun to seek for civilization of the future.” Assignment accomplished, but not really. The total picture depicts a eulogy to a lifeway quickly being eroded on multiple fronts: both the disappearance of Indigenous building typologies based on new federal guidelines that restricted funding for home loans and other housing programs to standardized government plans, and the alienation of children from their parents and communities based on their removal to faraway boarding schools like Sherman. It was no small thing for an eighth-grade student to acknowledge these losses in his interaction with authority figures, however obliquely. Student works like Bancroft’s open up a window for architectural historians into the complex entanglement of architecture’s politics and participation in these settler colonial cultural and political histories.

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  • An Imagined Ottoman City in Istanbul

    By
    Sundus Al-Bayati
     |
    Jan 12, 2022

    Sundus Al-Bayati is the 2019 recipient of the H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship. All photographs are by the author, except where otherwise specified.


    A Detour and a Different Kind of Reconstruction in Istanbul


    Hello from Istanbul, a city I didn’t think I’d visit in the course of my fellowship travel. The city wasn’t wiped out in any war in recent history that dramatically altered its appearance, like Berlin or Warsaw. People visit Istanbul to revel in the persistence of history at the site of three great empires. The Istanbul panorama, a landscape of hills dotted with domes and minarets straddling the sea elicits a sense of timelessness. This isn’t to say there hasn’t been conflict or destruction in Istanbul’s history. In my investigation of war and its consequences on how cities develop and grow, I’ve come to recognize the processes of globalization as another powerful force that damages the historic and social character of cities. What might have survived the air raids and bombs gets destroyed later to make room for a new mall or luxury housing. Istanbul’s accelerating development has mostly been the product of planned destruction that is associated with profit-led urban renewal projects. Some might remember news from Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square in 2013 where protests broke out against the government’s plans to raise Gezi Park to make room for a commercial development and a new mall. Taksim Square is one example of many neoliberal market-driven urban transformation projects that have been shaping the historical city since the 1980s. But there are other reasons why I find myself in Istanbul, a combination of the ongoing global pandemic, an economic crisis, and visa limitation for an Iraqi passport holder like myself.

    After Warsaw, I had planned to visit Beirut to explore the effects of the Lebanese civil war on the city. As I followed the news of the recent economic crisis in Lebanon and growing political instability, it was becoming clear that I needed an alternative plan. I settled on Nicosia, Cyprus. Nicosia, divided in the middle by the UN-buffer zone, would be a good alternative to Beirut as an example of a city divided by civil conflict. I’d like to share with you, if you indulge me, my visa experience with the Cyprus embassy in Berlin, to illuminate a small part of what it means to be a passport holder of a Third World country when traveling for research or academic scholarship. For all my friends and readers who are holders of US or European passports, unlike you, I cannot travel to a country for tourism without undergoing a lengthy visa process with indeterminate outcomes. With three months in the EU, I thought I had plenty of time to work out my visa with the Cyprus embassy. 

    Initial correspondence with the Cyprus Embassy in Berlin seemed encouraging and that they were willing to work with me. The embassy asked me how long I plan to stay, for what purpose, to send copies of my passport, green card, fellowship information, and reservations for flights and accommodations. I convinced them to schedule my appointment a month before I needed to leave the EU instead of the two weeks they suggested. Once I got in touch, I didn’t hear anything for almost two weeks, and then I got an email asking me again for the purpose of my travel and to describe in detail my “meetings, appointments, and specific schedule of my time there.” I referred them to my fellowship letter and website and explained again that this is a self-directed project and I didn’t have any “appointments” with any institutions. I am two weeks away from needing to leave Warsaw at that point. When they finally called me to set up a visa appointment, they added two conditions: first, I can only receive a third of the time I requested to stay in Cyprus as they are not convinced that I need to be in Cyprus for that long to “just look at buildings.” Second, I needed to show them nonrefundable tickets for my accommodation in Cyprus before they approve my visa. This process was extremely discouraging and uncertain. I had to let go of Cyprus for now and think of something else. So I headed to Istanbul.

    In Istanbul, I’ve become aware of a different kind of reconstruction that is not the result of war, one that is driven by power, political hegemony and efforts to restructure Turkish national identity through the city’s symbols and iconic urban images. These new projects, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), translate its ideological and political agenda into the urban form with a host of flagship projects transforming the historical narrative of the city as much as its future development. Similar to the way Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his government adopted modernist architecture as the language of the new Republic in a determinate effort to detach from Ottoman culture and symbols in the urban space, the AKP seeks to resurrect Turkey’s Ottoman and Islamic past by building a large numbers of mosques in a Neo-Ottoman style and converting existing historical churches into mosques, most prominent of which is the Hagia Sophia which was reclassified as a mosque in July 2020. 

     

    Taksim Square against the Forces of Urban Transformation


    Taksim Square holds symbolic significance as the heart of Istanbul. The site, where the Republic Monument celebrates the beginnings of the Turkish Republic, has historically been the place of political expression and demonstrations (Figure 1). In 2013, people rushed to Taksim Square to protest against an extensive development project by Istanbul Municipality to restructure the square and the adjacent Gezi Park. The plan proposed removing one of the few remaining green spaces in the city and replacing it with a shopping mall that carried the façade of a former 19th-century military barracks building from the Ottoman era. The protests were a testament to the growing dissatisfaction of Istanbul residents with an increasingly authoritarian government and its neoliberal economic policies that have transformed their city since the ascension of the AKP and its founder, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to power in the early 2000s. The development project would transform Taksim Square and Gezi Park from an open public space that allows for political expression to another space that prioritizes a consumerist-based experience, right next to the biggest commercial street in Istanbul, Istiklal Caddesi.  

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    Figure 1. Republic Monument and Taksim Mosque in the back

     

    The urban transformation plan of Taksim, while heavily driven by prospects of economic gains, underlines the motivations by the AKP government to chip away at the legacy of the Turkish Republic and solidify its own ideological presence in the most iconic part of Istanbul.1 The project also included the controversial addition of a mosque in a typically secular urban space in Istanbul. This part of the plan came to fruition with the construction of Taksim Mosque, which was inaugurated this year by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In addition, the old Ataturk Cultural Center, an iconic cultural institution from Turkey’s modern age, which stood there since 1969, was also part of the reform of Taksim Square. It was demolished in 2018 after a decade of neglect. The reconstruction replicates the façade of the original building but aims to surpass it. 

    In the middle of the square, the Republic Monument commemorates the formation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who is depicted in the sculpture as both a military commander and a political leader. East of the monument stood the old Ataturk Cultural Center, an iconic modernist building completed in 1969 as a cultural and educational space that comprised an opera house and concert hall, among other cultural activities. The old Ataturk Cultural Center’s modern façade and progressive cultural programming became a symbol of Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as a modern state with a new secular identity that broke with the religious rule of the Ottoman Empire.2 Symbols of the Republic permeate Taksim Square and explain why it has been the target of redevelopment projects by the AKP government that seeks to significantly reconstruct its image to display president Erdogan’s own vision of Turkey, a return to the grandeur and Islamism of the Ottoman Empire. The current Ataturk Cultural center in Taksim Square is a new construction that was completed in October of this year (Figure 2–4). To the surprise of many, the façade of the new building looks almost the same. This is partly because the new building was designed by Murat Tabanlioglu, the son of the architect who designed the original building. 

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    Figure 2–4. The New Ataturk Cultural Center

     

    At the other end of Taksim Square and across from the Republic Monument and the new Ataturk Cultural Center, stands one of President Erdogan’s mega-projects and triumphant symbols of his presidency, the new Taksim Mosque (Figure 5–11). The mosque opened this year, in the same week that marked the eighth anniversary of Gezi Park protests. The project was part of the redevelopment plan that sparked the protests in 2013 as it purposefully altered the secular identity of the square and reinforced Erdogan’s image of a religious Turkey. More importantly, the mosque ensures that Erdogan leaves his own legacy in Taksim. The massive size of the mosque dominates the existing landmarks of Taksim from the Republic Monument and the Ataturk Cultural Center to the Hagia Triada Greek Orthodox Church. 

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    Figure 5–11. The new Taksim Mosque

     

    Urban Renewal in Two Istanbul Neighborhoods: Tarlabasi and Balat


    Running along Taksim Square is the Tarlabasi thoroughfare, which I walked by a couple of times and noticed the glaring contrast between new shiny luxury and crumbling apartment buildings. The Tarlabasi neighborhood houses primarily low-income Kurdish residents, Syrian refugees, and Romani communities. Tarlabasi is an example of prevalent state-led urban renewal projects of dilapidated areas of high real estate value, often without regards to the underprivileged communities that are displaced in the process. The neighborhood has been the target of aggressive government “regeneration” projects to boost the Turkish economy.3 In 2005, law No. 5366 was passed, which gives municipal governments power to seize run-down but valuable land for redevelopment with the premise of protecting the historical character of these derelict buildings4 (Figure 12–16). One example of such development in Tarlabasi is the Taksim 360 project, a luxury residential and office complex, which began in 2010 with the eviction of residents and demolition of buildings and it is still under construction today (Figure 17–23). It’s hard to miss the stark contrast between the freshly built luxury apartments of Taksim 360 and heaps of trash at the front of decaying buildings just one street over. The project’s website is especially tone-deaf to the realities of the area in their description of the project as a lifestyle. The logo reads “you are at the center of this 360-degree lifestyle.” 

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    Figure 12–16. Rundown and Renovated Tarlabasi buildings

     

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    Figure 17–23. Taksim 360 project in Tarlabasi

     

    Balat is another historical neighborhood in Istanbul that was the subject of controversial urban revitalization projects (Figure 24–38). Balat was historically considered the "Jewish Quarter” of Istanbul but was also home to different ethnic and religious groups including Armenian and Greek Orthodox peoples. By the 1940s, most Jewish, Greek, and Armenian residents left the neighborhood and immigrants from Anatolia moved to the area in large numbers to work in the emerging industries that developed there.5 During the 1980s, government-led urban regeneration projects sought to revitalize historical areas like Balat, that have become dilapidated due to industrialization and overcrowded conditions. These projects included removing industries and destroying historical buildings in the process, which led to the decline of the neighborhood.6 Between 1997 and 2008, Balat underwent a more positive urban transformation project led by UNESCO and Fatih Municipality, among other non-profit organizations. The project prioritized preserving the historic character of the neighborhood by restoring local architecture and renovating decrepit buildings. 

    At the same time, Balat was experiencing a second type of urban transformation that was more market-driven and focused on transforming the neighborhood into a tourist destination. The second plan sought to undo some of the work from the first phase of transformation by demolishing rehabilitated buildings and constructing new ones that match the local architecture of Istanbul but doesn’t historically reflect what actually stood there.7 While parts of the project were halted by a court order in 2012, as the area is historically protected, for-profit piecemeal transformation projects, empowered by Law 5366 that disregards the social and economic implications of urban transformation projects, has given private development companies a lot of power in shaping the neighborhood. Walking around Balat, it is easy to see the forces of gentrification working their way through the neighborhood. New coffee shops and restaurants adorn the ground level of derelict and sometimes empty buildings. The street level and the top levels seem to inhabit two different dimensions. English signs to restaurants and cafés are clear indications that these places are targeting the tourist crowds. People still go to Balat for its historic streets and colorful houses. It’s a shame that soon this historical place will be reconstructed to be “instagrammable” at the expense of local residents and their buildings. 

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    Figure 24–38. Balat neighborhood

     

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    Figure 39–40. Kirmizi Kilise, Fener Greek Boy’s High School, built in 1881

     

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    Figure 41. Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, 13th-century Byzantine palace

     

     

    A New Mosque on the Hill


    It wasn’t until a couple of days of being in Istanbul, absorbing its panorama of domes and minarets, had passed did I notice how odd the mosque on the Asian side looked. It looked different from the other ones. Perhaps it stood out more because it was the only mosque of its size on that side of Istanbul but for all I knew, it could have been another mosque from the Ottoman period dating back to 16th or 17th century. It sure looked like it. I didn’t know then that I was looking at the biggest symbol of President Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s regime, only completed in 2019 (Figure 42–66). The Camlica Mosque, built in a Neo-Ottoman style to resemble the 17th-century Blue Mosque on the European side, is a physical embodiment of Erdogan’s continuous molding of Turkish national identity as both Ottoman and Muslim. As the patron of this great mosque, Erdogan is a modern day Sultan and Turkey, his empire. Not only is the mosque located on the highest hill in Istanbul, Camlica Hill, but its massive structure, which can accommodate 63,000 people, makes it visible from all around Istanbul. Camlica Mosque is one of many hundreds of mosques that are popping up all over Istanbul and Turkey without input from communities whether they are needed or not. When I entered the mosque, I was quickly directed by the male guard to walk towards the periphery, that is the women’s section. I told him I am just interested in seeing the mosque and wanted to look up at the dome but he insisted that I leave the “men’s” section, which is the heart of the mosque and observe from the side. This is the only mosque where I have experienced this. Reluctantly, but slowly, I walked to the women’s section and snapped my photos along the way. 

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    Figure 42–66. Camlica Mosque

    References


    1 Fuhrmann, Malte. "Taksim Square and the Struggle to Rule Istanbul’s Past." "Taksim Square and the Struggle to Rule Istanbul’s Past" in Critique & Humanism 46 (2016), 163–190, 2016.

    2 Ibid

    3 Arıcan, Alize. "Care in Tarlabaşı amidst Heightened Inequalities, Urban Transformation and Coronavirus." Radical Housing Journal, December 6, 2020. https://radicalhousingjournal.org/2020/care-in-tarlabasi-amidst-heightened-inequalities-urban-transformation-and-coronavirus/.

    4 Arıcan, Alize. “Behind the Scaffolding: Manipulations of Time, Delays, and Power in Tarlabaşı, Istanbul.” City & Society 32, no. 3 (2020): 482–507.

    5 AYSEV DENEÇ, Evren. “The Re-Production of the Historical Center of i̇stanbul in 2000s: A Critical Account on Two Projects in Fener - Balat.” METU JOURNAL OF THE FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE, 2014.

    6 Mutman, Demet, and Hulya Turgut. “Colliding Urban Transformation Process: The Case of Historical Peninsula, Istanbul.” International Journal of Architectural Research: ArchNet-IJAR 12, no. 1 (2018): 164.

    7 AYSEV DENEÇ, Evren. “The Re-Production of the Historical Center of i̇stanbul in 2000s: A Critical Account on Two Projects in Fener - Balat.” METU JOURNAL OF THE FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE, 2014.

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