A Symbolic Medium of the Nation: Ankara

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The documentary[1] commissioned and prepared for symbolizing the strengthened relations of the young Turkish Republic and USSR as well as promoting the image of “new Ankara,” as a symbol of the new and modern republic, starts with the speech of Ismet Paşa in front of the striking background image of old Ankara where the characteristic of a mere prairie is at its most explicit level. Two men visible in the audience wear top hats and suits as a symbolic outfit as a reflection of the modern lifestyle -aimed at by young republic- on its citizens’ dresses. Then the documentary suddenly changes its direction to the overall image of central Ankara -with camels, donkeys, narrow streets, and unplanned slams- which is depicted in the documentary as “Anatolia-to which the Turks died for”1.

At that point, it is quite striking to see Istanbul depicted as a reference point. Although it, too, belongs to the same state, it was much more developed than prairie Ankara in the urban sense. Thus, the selection of Ankara as an “image-making place for the young republic was significant when the general context of the state and the general trends in the world are taken into consideration.

From the republic’s foundation on, Ankara becomes the place where “an identity for the nation is constructed”[2]. With large boulevards, newly constructed modern buildings, and institutions (mostly planned by foreign architects of that time), modernized streets, new city plans, and the core Parliament House in Ulus; Ankara was carefully designed to symbolize Modern Turkey and its secular state image. In that respect, Ankara’s city image is -in a concise amount of time- changed from being a mere prairie to a symbolic medium for the new republic that could be the place to symbolize and deal with the changing socio-political context of the state. In this image-making process, media and production are used as effective mediums of the propaganda of the new ideology and state of mind[3]. It is evident that Ankara was selected to be an empty yet a promising context for this construction process as it represents a geography that has -even a little- past of Ottoman and the origin of Western civilizations. As mentioned in the documentary, Temple of Augustus is one of the strongest examples of the new capital’s Western roots and rich history.

At this point, it is also important to emphasize the role given to architecture in the way of being one of the strongest mediums of symbolizing change and transformation. Instead of rebuilding the existing city of Istanbul, Ankara was considered as an opportunity to impart the new “modern Turkey” image to the world. Foreign architects were invited to the country to plan the modernist buildings of banks, scientific and institutional, and governmental buildings. Their contribution to the city fabric and architectural education in Turkey, not only developed the new modern Turkey image but also contributed to the architectural education and understanding in the country.

In conclusion, the symbolic image of Ankara -as the representative capital of the Turkish Republic- is constructed with the solid contribution of planning and architecture. Through this birth of the new city in the middle of Anatolia, monumentalism took away the modest past life and introduced new buildings, which came up with a new urban reality that dictates new lifestyle and new minds that would fit into the desired Turkish Republic image and ideology[4]. In the end, Ankara became a representative point and a study case for Turkey’s future planning and development.

footnotes

[1] Directed by Sergey Yutkeviç and Lev Oskaroviç Arnstam in 1933 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Turkish Republic

[2] Deriu, David(2013), Picturing modern Ankara: New Turkey in Western imagination, the Journal of Architecture, 18:4, 497–527

[3] Deriu(2013),pp. 497–527

[4] Çınar, A.& Bender, T.(2007) “The Imagined Community as Urban Reality”, Urban Imagineries: Locating the Modern City. Minneapolis: University of Miinnesota Press, 151–181

references

Bozdoğan, S., Modernism and Nation Building: Turkish Architectural Culture in the Early Republic (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2001), 132–3.

Çınar, A.& Bender, T.(2007) “The Imagined Community as Urban Reality”, Urban Imagineries: Locating the Modern City. Minneapolis: University of Miinnesota Press, 151–181

Deriu, David(2013), Picturing modern Ankara: New Turkey in Western imagination, the Journal of Architecture, 18:4, 497–527

Directed by Sergey Yutkeviç and Lev Oskaroviç Arnstam in 1933 on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Turkish Republic

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ODTÜ // Instagram: @meltemsahin11 @oncekahvem https://www.meltemsahin.rocks/

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Meltem ŞAHİN

Meltem ŞAHİN

ODTÜ // Instagram: @meltemsahin11 @oncekahvem https://www.meltemsahin.rocks/

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