Diary of Vardiya 10 – The vast minority

Day 01. 25.09.2018 Tuesday
– Meeting in the pavilion
– Introduction to the subject “Social housing”
– Arsenale visit

The 10th shift focuses on the issues about mass & social housing from the past, today, and the future. In order to be prepared for such a critical subject we have been requested to read, watch, and then express our opinions with a collage diagram plus critical interviews & readings provided by our tutors before we arrived. Briefly, the preparation step provided the knowledge about development of mass & social housing in the world, mainly from Europe and United States, then criticising the situation of Turkey with its organizational, economical, and architectural approaches. Our first visit to The Biennale (Arsenale) is done with the perspective of this subject and we tried ourselves to catch as much ideas as we can in order to decide the output of our workshop. We had a common interest from the readings, which questioned how a social housing project might succeed; public as the participants in the design of their living spaces. During the day we had many discussions to hint some themes. At the end of
the day we decided to come out with a collective idea since we will be visiting Mazzorbo housing by Giancarlo de Carlo the next day. To be prepared on what we were looking for, we started by explaining one by one what we have seen in the biennale in relation to our problematic point on the subject. Fortunately, the theme “freespace” adresses many relations on social housing, directly or metaphorically. After this first phase of discussion we did a brainstorming to clarify how may public participation work better. Then we broke down the subject to its constituents. The question of how we human beings are bound to our living
spaces… Is it our local identity, our memories or the collective memory from the past or is it our habits, the scale, functionality, individuality? The questions were derived from the notion of “nostalgia”. Later on we decided that our trip to Mazzorbo is an opportunity to get in touch with its habitants. Our goal was to catch their corrections on the architecture they live in not only
technically. Thus all the subjects that might lead them to define their space in terms of their desires and that would lead us to rethink the typology. In this phase we will be composing smart dialogues in order not to impose pessimistic thoughts on De Carlo’s great architecture.

Day 02. 26.09.2018 Wednesday
– Giardini Visit
– Mazzorbo Meeting
– Mazzorbo: Case Study

The Giardini exhibition gave us a better understanding about the concept of free space and what it actually means. We saw that creating free space could be achieved by not building. We mainly channeled most of our focus on studying the Netherlands pavilion where Katia Truijen – our roundtable guest for tomorrow – is part of the curatorial team. But what we thought
was missing in general about the free space is the relatable human scale aspect. After the Giardini exhibition, we left to visit the Mazzorbo Island to have a better grasp on Giancarlo De Carlo’s participatory process. When we came on site we had a small meeting to discuss in detail the project at hand and about the methods on how we should carry out our investigation without
disturbing or offending any of its inhabitants. We started collecting data by photo-documenting the area and sketching to better understand the volumes and the interspatial relationships. Then we moved on to analyze its streets, courtyards and ground floor façades. Finally we had the opportunity to interview a couple of its inhabitants and even got to see the interior of a single
program dwelling unit. The inhabitants criticized the typological aspects of the building, complaining about its spatial organization. Without getting influenced by his remarks we also noticed that the interior of the dwelling had dampness issues. The fact that the inhabitant was criticizing this project helped us realize that most of the generation that was involved in the participatory process either left or passed away and the present occupants have no clue on the site’s history. But they expressed their love to the area and its serenity, showing that they still kept the same important values.

Day 03. 27.09.2018 Thursday

The day began with an enthusiastic preparation for our first roundtable talk with media theorist Katía Truijen. During our talk, we discussed the questions of “why does the biennale exist, what does it do, and for whom does it exist?”

Truijen explained to us that the Dutch Pavilion was about the changing conception of labor and the role of the human body in the face of emerging technologies of automation. For example, the bed is reconceived as a horizontal architecture for work, a subject of her recent collaboration with Beatriz Colomina and Farshid Moussavi at the Serpentine Pavilion.

We then had a very interesting dialogue about digital media and how it is already enabling us to transcend the physical and temporal limits of the Biennale, simply through the google hangout talk we were having, which was broadcast live on YouTube. Even now, as you read these words on this blog, you are already participating in the expansion of The Biennale and the Pavilion of Turkey through new media.

Following our discussion with Katía, we had a quick workshop amongst ourselves. Our coordinator Kerem Erginoğlu initiated the session by bringing up the fact that many issues of social housing depend on geographic context. For instance, Turkey, Italy, Palestine, and Switzerland all have unique conditions that render the question of housing completely different in each situation. This was followed by a presentation from one of our participants, Isra Assaf, on the reconstruction project of the refugee camp Nahr el Bahred. Her presentation raised the issue that our conception of housing and architecture often dismisses the emotional, social and interpersonal aspects of space. The community builds itself on these factors, not just the physical infrastructure.

Next up, we had a really illuminating lecture and discussion with Dr. Tarsha Finney, on innovative housing practices. In the examples she presented, we were confronted with ingenious methods of domesticity, dwelling and inhabitation. The modern family is in need of redefinion, and our housing practices need to change accordingly. According to Dr. Finney, what we ultimately need is not to create unique solution upon unique solution, but to generate a system that is capable of constant transformation and adaptation, whereby the change is normalizable and repeatable.

We closed our day with a trip through the Giudecca Island, where we wandered through the housing project by Chino Zucchi. Our impressions left us inspired and buzzing with ideas and thoughts for the following days of our shift.

Day 04. 28.09.2018 Friday

– Open Critic/ Alastair Parvin
– Output, exhibition discussion
– Open Critic/ Rusty Smith

The fourth day of ‘The Shift 10’ started with an online critic given by Alastir Parvin who is the co-founder of WikiHouse. As a non-profit open technology foundation, it allows companies, organizations, and governments to work together to develop new open technologies, standards and common infrastructures for housing and sustainable development. The aim of the project is to propose an alternative way of making our homes, as a type of digital ‘Lego’; open source construction system using digital manufacturing to make it possible for anyone to download and print customized, low-cost, high-performance houses. One of the points he mentioned was “form follows finance” and the role of market economy of making homes. Even though the idea seems so technical and economically concerned, he expressed the importance of searching for a pattern for these IKEA style houses to relate them to their context. He concluded his speech with a quotation which emphasizes the role of architecture in creating social communities: “Cities have capability of providing something only if they are built with community itself.”

After this mind opening conversation with Mr. Parvin, we focused on our possible output. Having our big roll of paper, we came together to scribble down the keywords and the main topics that we have discussed during our previous days. With the help of collective brainstorming, we arrived at a consensus about the way of presenting our output, in other words, our way of documenting the whole discussions that we made through the shift: podcast production. By selecting some critical questions, we tried to evaluate the topics in varied ways and searched for possible answers during our video podcasts.

In the afternoon, we continued our day with an open critic with Rusty Smith who is an Associate Director of the Rural Studio, a student-centered design/build program at Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction. Learning about the studio made us think about the alternative ways of teaching architecture, since it offers students more hands-on educational experience and let them learning how to do things by actually doing them. In addition to the alternative teaching method, the philosophy behind the studio suggests that everyone, both rich and poor, deserves the benefit of good design. At the end of this session, we finished our day with the awareness of the other ways of doing architecture, professional responsibility of an architect, the economical limitations, significance of land use, creating communities starting with the smallest scale of housing, alternative design processes and the social relevance of architectural profession.

Day 05. 29.09.2018 Saturday

– Roundtable – Melike Altınışık
– Keynote – Juhani Pallasmaa

The fifth day of ‘ The Shift 10’ started with online roundtable with Melike Altınışık, founder of MAA. Melike Altınışık stated that there will be no strict problems and answers in the future. The answers will be a creation of different stakeholders. Engineers,
physicists, chemists, and others are going to work together, and in this way parametric design could be applied in its best way. And also economy is an indispensable part of the design process that is why it should not be ignored.

In the afternoon Juhani Pallasmaa presented his ideas and experiences about art, architecture, science, and religion in the online Keynote program. Turkish Pavilion was full of people to share this incredible atmosphere with Vardiya #10 participants. After his speech and presentation, participants asked interesting questions and Juhani Pallasmaa answered sincerely and signified that questions are more importad than presentations. After all week’s presentations and discussions participants of Vardiya #10 decided to make interviews with visitors of The Pavilion of Turkey to enable participation that they were looking for in architecture. In each interview, visitors from differerent nationalities shared and discussed their ideas about social housing.

Day 06. 30.09.2018 Sunday

– Setting Up The Exhibition

On the last day of our shift we started setting up the exhibition. The to-do-list was shared by the participants. One last talk was carried out by Isra Assaf, Eda Bozkurt, Sinan Birsel with Pelin Tan about refugee housing in Palestine in the morning, while rest of the team were preparing the exhibition area and setting up the videos. It was decided to present visitor interviews on exhibition screen and to hang the keynotes, the questions that were extracted from interviews, our questions, and the mass housing examples that we talked about in our discussions. By this way visitors of the 10th Shift’s exhibition would be surrended by our learnings and
researches. He/She can find his/her interests about social housing from hanged sentences, while the timeline that we have prepared for the ground shows the exact time of the topic in the video. So that the topic can be listened.

The participants of Vardiya #10 learned so many things from this process. To starth with, we had a chance to think about an extraordinary example of Venice’s modern mass housing experiments, in a city that lived hundreds of years with all palimpsest layers. Also encountering with so many well thought out and prepared professional works in Venice Biennale changed our perpectives in different ways, not only exhibitions but also online meetings that were broadcasted in Youtube gave us a chance to meet professionals, listen to their ideas, projects, and question them in person. Furthermore ‘living’ in Venice for 6 days
gave us a chance to experience how The Biennale influenced Venetians.

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