Exploring the cultural barriers of architecture…

Ask yourself this: why people live together? Is it more fun in 2017? Well, it used to increase the chance of survival, which was the ultimate goal of ‘being’, to continue to be. Now, we’re in a state of confirming the ultimate survival, right? With all those high walls, higher technology and the strategies of bending nature, crushing the enemy, but creating ones within ourselves. So, getting back to the question, why people prefer to live together? Does it create an illusion as if we’re not consequently alone, or does it create the sense that we’re on the right track? Let’s not continue in an extremely philosophic way but return to more realist answers (as if the only way to get those answers is to be solid): it’s cheaper, it’s energy efficient and it also adresses our psychology as safer, to live together. Also there’s this fact that in cultures which tends to look at family boundaries as one of the essences of being and the building block of the society, people tend to live together because there’s a little chance that there’s another option present.

In Turkey, there are mixtures of lifestyles. You can walk pass by a conservative family and then ran into gay people holding hands. Chances of these types of mixed-used places increases in more densely populated cities. I don’t think that in this writing, I need to mention Istanbul because it cannot be fit into descriptions, not just a simple metropolis but it’s a city that made people make art for, die for and kill for. Overrated, you think? Well, let your personal experiences decide on that.


Let’s focus on Ankara. The city of Jansen master plan, the city which witnessed the rise of Republican Architecture and the capital of all the ongoing construction of both governmental and private buildings. The culture which can also be considered as the standardization of the family type of apartments, or let’s say the response to the needs caused by the migration from rural areas to urban, had affected Ankara in such a way that there’s a residential texture present. This texture can be observed in the more rooted parts of Ankara. However, to be more specific, i’m not mentioning the parts where the life of community as the capital city had the need to be born and more communal buildings were needed, such as more central parts of Ulus and Kızılay. The streets of Ayrancı, Kavaklıdere, Gaziosmanpaşa etc. They have this concept of living. If you live there, or if you’ve ever been in one of those streets, you may have felt it. The smell of the fresh cooked breads coming right out of the bakery, the sound of, kind of angrily honking the horns of the cars, since the roads are narrower and people walk more, the sound of local salesmen greeting you with their usual hellos, would you like to buys=buyrun buyrun, and have a nice days. You can ask that what is so different from the other residential streets? Let’s leave the answer to the locals…

A family in a desert.
A western family (from the TV show ‘According to Jim’)

So, this culture of ‘living together’ consists both of families living together in apartments and in radically planned streets suitable for residential living, the required aspects of living together can be seen such as sources of food; markets, bakeries, restaurants, cafes, as well as places to socialize, bars, pubs, kahvehanes, shops, health centers, schools, daycares, parks etc. Anything you can imagine on a daily routine base.

A ‘seyyar satıcı’ in Turkey
Vending machines in streets of Tokio, Japan

This is a beautiful culture, living with families and sharing the warm sense of ‘belonging’. On the other hand, there can be young professionals who travelled and moved to another city, to pursuit on their careers and make a good life for oneself. Then, would this feeling of warmth be lost? It can change according to the responsive architecture. Let’s consider Europe as an example. The high amount of studio apartments emphasize on the fact that there are lots of international, as well as local, students studying and living there by themselves. The city planning gives them opportunities to subsist and there are places to go, activities to do and just simply ‘share’ the life there. Sharing lives doesn’t always have to mean living together. It can be public cultural and art activities, events and fulfilling tasks to make, voluntary jobs etc. It’s the quality of interaction that matters.

A simple studio apartment design
The introductory scene from the movie ‘Medianeras’, which I strongly recommend.

‘Being an individual’ is the trajectory concept of the post-post modern times. Can it be achieved through architecture? It can be certainly supported or undermined. Feeling as if being a part of a whole can be achieved through numerous things. The project given to the first semester of 3rd graders is Urban Co-Housing Community in Hoşdere Street, Ankara, which got me thinking of the components of a life as a community. According to the explanations of Hillery (1955), the components of a community are mainly peoplecommon tiessocial interaction and place. In addition to that, shared history and participation structure plays important roles, too. It comes down to the concept of ‘mixed-use’.

Increasing density not only improves air and water quality and protects open space but also redirects investments to our existing towns and cities. It can revitalize existing communities and create more walkable neighborhoods with access to public transit and hiking and biking trails. Pedestrian-friendly higher density developments offer general health benefits as well. Mixed land uses give people the option to walk and bike to work, shops, restaurants, and entertainment. The convenience of compact communities may help fight diseases related to obesity. Higher-density communities are vital to preserving a healthy environment and fostering healthy lifestyles.” (Haughey, 2005)

People can live alone in their flats, preserving the sense of ‘personal space’ but whenever they need a human interaction, without virtualization, people should have the chance of stepping out their doors and find company. It’s again related with feeling safe, so back to where we started. But rather than just feeling safe and protected, emotional hunger is the essence of being ‘human’ and unfortunately or fortunately, in order to live and be a part of a commune, social interactions and relationships within the community is needed.

To sum up all that I have discussed, cultural background plays an important role in the direction of architecture. Can culture be separated from the individuals? I don’t think so because culture is a unspeakably huge treasure of mankind but in order for people to achieve their dreams and goals in their own personal lives, architecture can be ‘respectful’ for both people’s need to do something on their owns, preserving the personal barriers and making them connect with other people, creating shared spaces, feeding the public life and give people opportunities to feel they are not alone, at all.


The core definitional components of community

Haughey, Richard M. (2005). Higher-Density Development: Myth and Fact. Washington, D.C.: ULI–the Urban Land Institute.


Hillery, G. (1955). Definitions of community: areas of agreement. Rural Sociology, 20, 111-123.