From now on, every new building we will build must now be environmentally friendly, waste-free structures, including the production process

Celaleddin Çelik, a renowned architect from Türkiye, elaborated on Turkish urbanism and the importance of building livable cities for Business Diplomacy readers.

Following the earthquake disaster on february 6, we deeply realized the ımportance of proper construction. In this concext, could you share your views on the construction in Türkiye?

The geography of Türkiye has a wealth of knowledge on which cities have been established for thousands of years. Various civilizations such as Göbeklitepe, Hittites, Urartu, Romans, and others established many settlements and cities in these lands. We can say that this great accumulation of knowledge has been transferred over the course of history, either through the art of public construction or through monumental works. We can consider the Ottoman cities as the last link of this flow. As a state founded on such a historical background, The Republic of Türkiye embarked on the construction of the nation and civilization. However, the possibilities of industrial construction, which we have got to know in the last few decades, were, unfortunately, allowing for unplanned construction. In a construction frenzy where architectural knowledge and knowledge of city building were pushed aside, Turkish cities suffered a great blow.

The main determinants of the development of our cities were not based on architecture and its related disciplines but on other dynamics. Knowledge obtained from mistakes, sensitivities and approaches brought by Turkish cities from history were pushed aside as if they never existed. It is still possible to find good examples from the past and good examples of architecture, despite on a singular scale. However, it is impossible to say that our settlements created in the contemporary period are satisfactory in terms of architectural quality. Unfortunately, we have carried out many unplanned, technically problematic constructions without architecture.

What steps should be taken into account when re-establishing living spaces  in areas damaged by the earthquake?

The earthquakes on February 6 resulted in great destruction, it was an inconceivable disaster. However, it was not the first warning for us. Earthquakes have been common in this land since the beginning of history. Our generation’s hardest encounter with the earthquake phenomenon was in the 1999 Marmara earthquake. Since then, we have actually been expecting a massive Istanbul earthquake. Besides the reconstruction activities following such great destruction, a retrospective evaluation should also be made. It is necessary to examine the construction activities of the last century in the regions heavily affected by the earthquake. When did structures begin to be built in non-suitable areas? How were the floor heights increased in which period? Why the people did not choose weak grounds for buildings? The answers to such questions need to be addressed.

In the course of the construction of new settlements, we should pay attention not to miss certain very basic opportunities again. Some of these are moving away from high-rise residences, constructing structures that will not limit people’s relationship with nature, and seeking onetime organic combinations that will move away from the over-rational and boring monotony of the military-like order and create space for life. Keeping in mind that reinforced concrete is not the only known construction method, to make room for dry construction systems, wood, steel, light steel, and even masonry structures. It is important to ensure that the architectural unit called a house is redefined not as an apartment flat, but as a home with a detached garden.

Whic methods should be used on the basis of building livable cities suitable for human nature? Could you give an example of artchitectural trends around the world?

Humane spaces should be our fundamental aspiration. These spaces are the elements that affect the mood, vision, view of the world, self-interpretation and relations with the people around the dwellings in the relationship that the houses will establish with the sun, air and nature. It should be said that every destruction also brings along a new test. Every test is an opportunity in a way. If we have not been able to make our physical environment beautiful in the last few decades, and even the structures we have built have not survived, then we should be able to compensate for many mistakes with the lessons to be learned here. We should keep in mind that a house that is habitable in a humane way is basically a house with a garden and a detached house as the main ideal. Even if we cannot build a detached house for everyone with today’s opportunities, it is important that we remember this idea and look in that direction with a consensus.

We need to both remember and see from the architectural trends in contemporary countries that these houses can be built not only from concrete, but also from wood, light steel, and other alternative methods. We have to give a lot of effort to understand the value of local architectural knowledge. Material information, window openings, roof formations, orientations, and local knowledge in land selections are very valuable information that has been formed over the centuries and has been refined by experience. Architects and builders have to treat these with respect and admit that they have a lot to learn from them.

Recently, buildings that are sustainable, protect nature and consume less energy and water have been designed. How do you elaborate on the importance of these buildings and their applicability in Türkiye?

Our world can no longer afford to waste its resources ruthlessly. We see the effects of global warming, and we know that there may be tensions and wars between countries for water resources in the near future. We understand more and more every day how industrial products pollute the world and how carbon footprint is a big problem. The fact that consumption and production processes turn a blind eye to the protection of nature and environmental awareness leads to making the place we live in uninhabitable by ourselves. In this respect, we can opt for humanely designed and built structures as an inevitable solution.

Buildings made with wood, which is one of the alternative construction methods, have a negative carbon footprint, that is, instead of emitting carbon, they store carbon as carbon sinks. These structures do not produce waste, it will be better understood if you compare them with the debris and rubble of reinforced concrete structures. It is not possible to decompose and reuse reinforced concrete rubble. On top of it, we observe a great increase in tuberculosis and other upper respiratory tract diseases due to asbestos that emerged while removing the reinforced concrete debris in the earthquake zone. The destroyed wooden or light steel buildings do not have any rubble, every part is reused and transformed. Lightweight structures are the most reliable structures in an earthquake, they stretch, do not collapse into themselves, they do not kill people by crushing them.

From now on, every new building we will build must now be environmentally friendly, waste-free structures, including the production process. They need to collect, store and use rainwater. They need to be designed to use natural light in the most efficient way and to reduce artificial lighting consumption. It is necessary to establish the physics of the building properly and thus reduce the need for heating
and cooling. In fact, if we deeply inform artificial intelligence about elements such as architectural quality, being environmentally and epidemic-friendly, being at peace with earthquakes and disasters, and being of human quality, I think a picture emerges of how our new architecture should be. We must go after such a picture.

Would you like to elaborate on any other topic…

Even though Türkiye has faced many adversities and bad events in the structural platform, it is a country that has the potential to learn from all these and reveal great wisdom again. Regarding the great accumulation of knowledge, as I mentioned at the beginning, it is necessary to intend with a collective will to reveal the physical environment worthy of us with today’s responsibility. Yes, it may sound light, but the intention is the most essential element for the positive change and development of this huge order. It is the only real starting point for the realization of this great potential. Instead of architects, the discipline of architecture should be at the service of society and decision-makers, who have intended to create a city, house and physical environment worthy of us. It is important how large an audience shares this vision, dream and imagination. I believe that our first task is to get rid of our desperation and redefine what is worthy of ourselves.