2 March 2021 

The ‘Cosmopolite’ at Home:
Material Histories of Domestic Living in Early Modern Istanbul (1850-1930)

gta Institute, ETH Zurich

A district of Istanbul, Pera was a newly developing area in mid-nineteenth century with a recognition of being an international hub of commerce, art and entertainment. By marking a tremendous intercultural fluidity among urban elites the region popularised in terms of its cosmopolitanism, which also turned it into a symbol of European presence in the Ottoman capital. While this intricate semi-colonial course of domination was constructing a dissimilar landscape for its residents, it was also effective in the adoption of new ideas that were transformative for traditional Ottoman domestic living. This study explores different material aspects in the changing notions about domesticity that were mostly catalyzed by the rising prominence of this bourgeois class. It focuses on three tracks of research that gives different insights for the understanding of modern home. It scrutinizes the concerns of health, hygene and infrastructural attempts to give domestic access to fresh water; the norms, institutions and legislations to transform the timber houses to durable masonry buildings and the interlaced histories of household objects, house organization and modern manners in daily life. I argue that domesticity is a modern construction that can be alternatively read through the intertwining histories of different material agencies. By looking at specific qualities of home I will problematize the sole role of architecture in shaping domestic space. Also I will explore the reflections of modern living in the efforts to build residential Pera and thus strive to bond together the interstices between public and private courses of modernization which has so far lacked a sufficient dialogue. In the study I aim to develop a materialist perspective to the architectural transformation in early modern Istanbul, as well as provide a critical approach for Ottoman cosmopolitanism.


Modernism through the Lens of Photojournalism:
The Architecture of Brasília 1957-1977

gta Institute, ETH Zurich

Comet Photo AG, 1977, ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv

At the end of the 1950s, Brasília was a multimedia event. The plan of relocating Brazil’s capital to a new city in the country’s hinterland captivated, not only the specialized media but also photographic agencies, photojournalists, and high circulation illustrated magazines. This research scrutinizes the interplay between photojournalism and modern architecture, focusing on Brasília. Contrarily to the much-studied fields of “architectural photography” and “mass media”, or the “ethnographic gaze” performed by post-war architects, photojournalism unfolds the architecture of the city beyond the constructed images of modern ideology. It is suggested that photojournalism’s approach disrupts the notion of modern architecture’s autonomy. Its mechanisms of representation, crafted in warfare, relied on new camera and film technologies, on innovative shooting techniques such as aerial photographs, and on a particular social-political engagement towards architecture. The visual output of photojournalism in Brasília pushes the buildings to the background and exposes alternative narratives and marginal actors that modern architecture tends to conceal: displaced populations, issues of race, labor, resources, and maintenance. Examining different archives, the research focuses on four instances of photojournalism: the illustrated magazine, the photojournalist, the photo agency, and the photograph. Each case-study traces different networks of collaboration and modes of production, covering the entire development of Brasília, from its initial construction works in 1957 until the city’s daily life in 1977. The research has two complementary ambitions. On one hand, to understand the production and relevance of photojournalism’s heteronomous gaze for modern architecture. On the other, to challenge the ubiquity and conventions of “architectural photography” practice in the discipline, and to introduce a more nuanced visual narrative of modernity combining multiple perspectives of suppressed actors and everyday stories.

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