Architecture in Translation

Germany, Turkey, and the Modern House

Architecture in Translation

Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 143 illustrations Published: July 2012

Author: Esra Akcan

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In Architecture in Translation, Esra Akcan offers a way to understand the global circulation of culture that extends the notion of translation beyond language to visual fields. She shows how members of the ruling Kemalist elite in Turkey further aligned themselves with Europe by choosing German-speaking architects to oversee much of the design of modern cities. Focusing on the period from the 1920s through the 1950s, Akcan traces the geographical circulation of modern residential models, including the garden city—which emphasized green spaces separating low-density neighborhoods of houses surrounded by gardens—and mass housing built first for the working-class residents in industrial cities and, later, more broadly for mixed-income residents. She shows how the concept of translation—the process of change that occurs with transportation of people, ideas, technology, information, and images from one or more countries to another—allows for consideration of the sociopolitical context and agency of all parties in cultural exchanges. Moving beyond the indistinct concepts of hybrid and transculturation and avoiding passive metaphors such as import, influence, or transfer, translation offers a new approach relevant to many disciplines. Akcan advocates a commitment to a new culture of translatability from below for a truly cosmopolitan ethics in a globalizing world.


“While Architecture in Translation constitutes clearly a ‘next step’ in scholarly works that examine the histories of the Turkish nation’s architectural and planning projects, it is also an ideal ‘first step’ toward analyzing more critically the dynamics of interaction and exchange that we today otherwise generalize under terms like modernization, globalization, or development. Charting the origins, diffusions, and transformations of ideas, approaches, and key actors through multiple historical and geographic contexts, Akcan’s book also emerges as a most readable and thoughtful history of ideas.”  — Kyle T. Evered, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

“Esra Akcan’s excellent book, Architecture in Translation, focuses on the history of German-Turkish exchanges in residential architecture in the 20th century...Directing her attention towards questions of urbanity, population, and housing, Akcan successfully situates architecture within the modernization paradigms of the new Turkish republic.” — Nazan Maksudyan, Middle East Media and Book Reviews

“Akcan’s book is a significant contribution to the historiography of modern architecture by transcending ‘East-West’ polarization. This is a monumental undertaking and an excellent introduction to the brave new world of multipolar histories where the old fictions of a centerand a periphery no longer apply.” — Can Bilsel, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

“The readers of this book will find a history of modernism that goes beyond an imperial cartography, and will encounter multiple voices of modernism including those of patrons, clients, and inhabitants of modern architecture. In this cartography, the map that Akcan draws is a rich historical study of houses in Germany and Turkey.” — Tülay Atak, Journal of Architectural Education

"An important contribution to cultural theory and architectural history, Architecture in Translation is specifically recommended for those interested in cultural translations in the history of the Middle East. Given the richness of its literary and visual references as well as its fluent writing style, it is an intellectual joy to read." — Namkik Erkal, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"This study is seminal on two counts: it analyzes the relatively new concept of cultural translation, and it affords the reader an extremely interesting account of the evolution of Kemalist cultural policies." — Kenneth Frampton, author of Form Material Assembly: The Work of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp

"Tracing the surprisingly intertwined twentieth-century histories of German and Turkish residential housing and urban planning from the garden city via the urban Siedlung to the national house, Esra Akcan brilliantly deploys lingual translation theory as a flexible template to analyze zones of asymmetrical exchange in architecture and urban planning. Architecture in Translation moves compellingly beyond modernist universalism and nationalist regionalism toward a cosmopolitan ethics as a goal for a global architecture." — Andreas Huyssen, editor of Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Esra Akcan is Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is the author of (Land)Fill Istanbul: Twelve Scenarios for a Global City.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. Modernity in Translation 1

Translation beyond Language 6

The Theoretical Possibility or Impossibility of Translation 9

Appropriating and Foreignizing Translations 15

The Historical Unevenness of Translation 17

The Ubiquity of Hybrids and the Scarcity of Cosmopolitan Ethics 21

1. Modernism From Above: A Conviction about Its Own Translatability 27

New City: Traveling Garden City 30

New House: Representative Affinities 52

New Housing: The Ideal Life 76

From Ankara to the Whole Nation: Translatability from Above and Below 93

2. Melancholy in Translation 101

The Melancholy of Istanbul 107

A Journey to the West 119

The Birth of the "Modern Turkish House" 133

3. <em>Siedlung</em> in Subaltern Exile 145

<em>Siedlung</em> and the Metropolis 148

<em>Siedlung</em> and the Generic Rational Dwelling 175

<em>Siedlung</em> and the Subaltern 195

4. Convictions about Untranslatability 215

Untranslatable Culture and Translatable Civilization 215

"The Original" 218

Against Translation? The National House and <em>Siedlung</em> 233

5. Toward a Cosmopolitan Architecture 247

<em>Ex Oriente Lux</em> 249

Melancholy of the East 252

<em>Weltarchitektur</em>—Translation of a Treatise 263

Toward Another Cosmopolitan Ethics in Architecture 277

Epilogue 283

Notes 291

Bibliography 337

Sources of Illustrations 375

Index 383
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5308-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5294-5
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