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The production activities, overwhelmed by the subjects that are acting the norms and rules upon language sphere's close inspection, yield a correspondingly illustrative and self-reflecting picture. Seeing the link between authority, social entity, discursive practices, and the built environment has strengthened my desire to study on this dialectic relation. Through this path, I plan to make a research on history, theory, and criticism of architecture and particularly I intend to research the relation between the social entity, the discourse that is constructed through this entity and the built environment. As an extension of my M.Arch dissertation that investigates "praxis" in architecture, I also intend to question the position of the architect as a social catalyst in this dynamic process.
In my M.Arch thesis, titled "Praxis: The Dialectic Relation Between 'Thinking' and 'Making' in Architecture", I have tried to make an inquiry in the theory, practice and their union in architecture. As I have researched in my thesis, within the discipline of architecture, theory includes all the essential rules and notions of architecture so; any reasonable architecture depends on the prior development of its theory. Architectural theory, with its own language, is essential for production activity. Architectural theory and discourse supports this production activity and this process produces architectural knowledge correspondingly. There is a dialectical relationship between "thinking" and "making" activities where the architectural "praxis" emerges. Based on this argument, my M.Arch thesis claims that architecture is meaningful only if it is considered as praxis, and it suggests that, -without a structured theory-, a final object of architecture is limited in terms of social, cultural, and functional properties. It is for this reason why, the architectural product as a work of art is also the product of contextual and functional demands, where the architect becomes a commodity producer and a creative agent. Here, the subject of the praxis; the architect and his/her social position in the production activity becomes a current issue. As an extension of my M.Arch dissertation, I also intend to question the position of the architecture and architect as a social catalyst in the process of social transformation in my PhD work.
As I have stated above, I want to study the relationship between the authority, social entity, discursive practices, and the built environment. As a historical context for exploring the dialectical relationship between the social organization and the built form, the transformations in economic and social systems in the recent century, and the metamorphosis of architecture and architect throughout this process is a possible research topic. The change of the "modernist" discourse, the shift in the meaning of the terms; "modern" and "modernization", and the reflection of this condition on the space production calls my attention.
Modernization or being modern is usually taken to indicate the complex formation of socio-economic phenomena, which originated from the context of Western development, and they have revealed themselves to the other countries of the world in different forms. In architectural context, being "modern" does not necessarily propose a contemporaneous work, but a distinctive manner and ideology that is carried on from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1970s. The tabula-rasa of the "Modernism" in the beginning of the 20th century aimed to re-produce the society and society began to transform space or vice versa. "Modernism" started to cover the built environment with its purposeful images that are created in the "Modernist" culture.
Beginning from the 1970s, significant transformations have taken place both in the developed countries of the West and the underdeveloped countries. With the change in the global economic conditions, the neoliberal ideology became popular in the context of the late 1970s. A new economic model started to transform the social entity and gave a rise to the emergence of new classes in the society. In this globalizing economy, architecture and urban design have had a role in the facilitation of the circulation and accumulation of capital. During this period, the political systems have tried to maintain the appearance of control by setting many rules: what height restrictions have to be adhered to, which materials have to be used, what artistic language the buildings should speak. This has merely concealed the fact that so much control over use had been ceded to the investors. During this process, the word of "Modernization" has changed its original meaning and reached a different significance. The new class that has emerged due to the transformation in economic system has started to envisage a new tabula-rasa that removes the existing social organizations/relations and the space that is produced dialectically. Due to the change in the circumstances of competition in global scale, the authorities have started to deal with the space as a palimpsest and re-built the environment that would represent the power of the re-produced entity. The words; big, attractive, rich, and deluxe have started to be used to signify something "modern". Eventually, the architect as a politic actor has taken his/her position in the production activity. At this point, it is possible to claim that this shift in concepts and society as a whole has given rise to the change in the role of the subjects as authority, investor, client and architect.
At this stage, I want to make a research on the "shift" in the understanding of "modernization" in the "developing" non-western countries. This "new modernism" of the neo liberal economy and a new upper-class group in many contexts have started to use architecture as an apparatus of visibility and it has created its own spaces. This new class has re-interpreted the "modernism" and this new perception has been reflected on the space via architecture. Turkey may be a good fit for exemplifying these countries due to the visibility of the "shift of modernization" in society and space. In the political sphere, the rise of the conservatives in socio-economic framework has given rise to a new perception of "modernization" in social space. Ä°stanbul has been one of the key places both where the new architecture of the dominant ideology has been transforming the city as a palimpsest sheet and the impacts of these transformations have been felt strongly since the beginning of the 1980s.
While land speculation has become the key urban policy, the central government altered the administrative structure of large cities, relaxed the planning system, and increased the revenues of the municipalities. The luxury residential compounds, newly erected high-rise office buildings, and dozens of new shopping centers have given rise to social and physical transformation. In Istanbul, the administrators of the city adopted the neoliberal approach that put financial gain ahead of people's needs. In order to keep up with the new "Modernist" approach, the authorities have started to build "deluxe" spaces for making Ä°stanbul attractive for investors, not only by abolishing of legal controls that regards the public good, but also by performing a parallel transformation of the users of the city.
My research aim is to explore the spatial and social transformation of Ä°stanbul and to focus on the new residential complexes that are constructed within the scope of the urban transformation/urban gentrification projects held by the government. These projects are carried out in a neoliberal understanding that is imposed on urban land and housing markets to change the face of the city, especially in old squatter housing areas and 'rundown' inner-city neighborhoods. In this process, while the new "rich" class is becoming the owner of the space, the poor are driven more to the periphery under the guise of urban renewal projects. This process segregates the poor and the rich in terms of spatial distribution. Here, architecture and space production becomes a tool of providing visibility to the "modernization" process in both spatial and social manners.
At this point, the subject of the designing activity, the architect, takes different positions in production activity. The architect, as a commodity producer, characterizes the structure within which the process of material and cultural production is possible. As an artist, he/she re-shapes his/her social entity by considering social demands. Furthermore, in addition to taking position in the re-production of the structure, he/she produces an architectural work in physical and social context, so, the architect both concerns and re-evaluates his/her own context. In the inquiry of the perception of modernism in neo-liberalized world and the physical reflection of this perception in space production, I also want to question the social responsibility and power of the architect in this social and economic transformation process, so the idea of architect's agency.