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Design workshop to promote awareness towards cultural heritage and sustainability: Lessons from Turkey

Reading time 8 min.

About the author:

Sıla Ceren Varış Husar, Kütahya Dumlupınar University and Slovak University of Technology

Sıla Ceren Varış Husar, a postdoctoral researcher, completed her PhD at the Middle East Technical University Department of City and Regional Planning in 2021. Her dissertation focuses on regional innovation and its relation to space, people, and institutions. She analyses the dynamics of the city and the regions through research and practices at different scales. Currently, she is conducting a project on regional innovation and human capital in CEE countries with a special focus on Slovakia.

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Sıla Ceren Varış Husar, Kütahya Dumlupınar University and Slovak University of Technology.

In terms of contributing to the blog series of post-2020 pedagogical approaches, this piece aims to share the Turkish experience of a design workshop that promotes awareness towards cultural heritage and sustainability via an intensive design program. When the COVID-19 global epidemic hit the world, it wasn't easy to switch immediately to distance teaching and learning models in the design fields. The conditions had an immense impact on both lecturers and students. Since face-to-face teaching was postponed for almost two years, the idea of conducting a workshop with the 4th year interior architecture students was born.

While reaffirming our recognition of the need for design disciplines to work collaboratively, we questioned ourselves about what we have done so far to achieve this in practice. For those who study and teach in the design field, the lack of face-to-face interaction and an on-site approach during distance learning led to deficiencies in the learning process. We thought it would be a pedagogical contribution to do this type of workshop with graduating class to cope at least a bit with the challenges created by distance learning due to the pandemic. Four coordinators from different backgrounds provided an interdisciplinary discussion setting, two from interior architecture, one from urban planning and one from industrial design. The workshop "Pavilion in Aizanoi" was held between 13-15 May 2022 by a group of researchers from Turkey, Assist. Prof. Dr Merve Buldaç (leading coordinator), Assist. Prof. Dr Merve Karaoğlu Can and Dr Sıla Ceren Varış Husar, affiliated with Kütahya Dumlupınar University Faculty of Architecture and Dr Gizem Hediye Eren, affiliated with Eskişehir Technical University Faculty of Architecture and Design.

Image 1. Pavilion in Aizanoi Workshop coordinators and students in front of the Temple of Zeus (Courtesy of Merve Karaoğlu Can)

The ancient city of Aizanoi is located 48 km Southwest of the city of Kütahya from the inner Western Anatolia Region, settled in 3000 BC and was a centre in ancient Phrygia. Aizanoi is in the Çavdarhisar district, which inhabits almost 6,000 people. There have been previous efforts to select the ancient city of Aizanoi as a case study architectural design studio (see Özkan Yazgan & Akalın, 2019). Özkan Yazgan and Akalın (2019)'s research pursues to understand cognitive operations and place awareness relationship. They contribute to the pedagogical discourse in architectural design. They underline the benefits of being aware of the local values to increase the sense of care among design students.

Image 2. Discussions during workshop on design of the Pavilion (Courtesy of Merve Karaoğlu Can)

We developed a different approach from the previous ones via the workshop by aiming to get to know and explore the place firsthand in a short time, three days, and to present the outputs after an intensive design program. The students were expected to design a pavilion that would serve as a festival, which could be either natural or fictional. The pavilions are living spaces that can be built temporarily or permanently, can be transformed according to the purpose of use, and are appealing for users to spend time inside and outside. Workshop coordinators aim for the workshop to increase both cultural heritage awareness and sustainability. Linking the designs with the place was the most crucial criterion, and sustainability and reusability were emphasised in the use of materials.

A whole group of students and coordinators stayed and went camping in the Çavharhisar Evi (House of Çavharhisar) and its backyard. This housing complex is refurbished from old country houses in terms of a project initiated by Anturia – The School of Archeology and Social Environmental Ethics located next to the ruins of the Macellum, which is one of the first exchange markets in the world.

Image 3. Çavharhisar Evi (in the back) and Macellum (in front)
Image 4. Çavharhisar Evi (House of Çavharhisar) and Anturia – The School of Archeology and Social Environmental Ethics

Leading coordinator of the workshop, Assist. Prof. Dr Buldaç emphasizes that "it is necessary for all stakeholders in the design discipline to ensure the sustainability of the ancient cities, as relics with the characteristics of thousands of years old cities and important elements of cultural heritage". She continued this idea by leading a scientific project application in which she and her team included local governments and related departments of the university as the Department of Archeology.

All in all, the students, who had a practical, on-site, and intensive design program, gained knowledge and experience and created pavilion designs with different ideas and themes with strong place association by feeling the spirit of the ancient city of Aizanoi. After a long time of social distance, we enjoyed fruitful discussions about relations between place and design ideas, live guitar sessions, silent cinema, great food made from local products, marshmallows by the campfire and most importantly, the company of each other.

Image 5. The whole group around the campfire



Özkan Yazgan, E., & Akalın, A. (2019). The comprehension of place awareness in a historical context: Metaphors in architectural design education. Metu Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, 36(2), 183–202. https://doi.org/10.4305/METU.JFA.2019.1.7

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Friday, 19 July 2024