The “Graves of Istanbul Design Contest” announced its
winners at beginning of December (2020). Hosted by the City of Istanbul’s
Department of Cultural Assents and the Istanbul Planning Agency, one aim of the
contest-held this past September-was to emphasize the fact that Istanbul’s
graves, even if a cultural asset, haven’t received attention they deserve by
Turkey’s design programs. Therefore, it invited designers-i.e. the architects
of our collective memory-to ponder over this issue, take responsibility for it,
and bring esthetic to death. Likewise, asked all of us to pause and think about
why cemeteries are important, and to heighten-as a societyour awareness those
who have passed away.
Come phase one, contestants were asked to re-design the graves/ environs of the graves of figures who represent different strata of Turkish society. Most notably: Adile Naşit, Ahmet Mete Işıkara, Aşık Daimi, Cihat Burak, Didem Madak, Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır, Eremya Çelebi Kömürciyan, Halide Edip Adıvar, Halil Kaya, Hilmi Ziya Ülken, Lefter Küçükandonyadis, Mes’ud Cemil, Naim Süleymanoğlu, Neyzen Tevfik Kolaylı, Optik Başkan, Orhan Kemal, Turgut Uyar, Ali Nezih Uzel, and Cevdet Kılıçlar-Necdet Yıldırım. Out of 375 submissions, many walked home with first prize. We wanted to tell you about those who used natural stone.
Adem Şahinoğlu and his team took home first prize for their design of Adile Neşat’s grave. Fondly remembered for her role as Hafize Ana, the recess bell-ringing schoolmistress (in the Turkish classic Hababam Sınıfı), Adile and her husband Ziya Bey’s grave bed feature a long marble block. A series of small and large marble blocks of similar dimensions surround gravesite. Atop Adile’s grave stone sits a hand bell, again craved from marble. The team chose light colored marble for Adile and Ziya’s grave bed, alongside one tone of dark colored marble for the surrounding blocks, each symbolizing Adile’s “kuzucuklar” (i.e. children). Deniz Uygur won first place for two gravesites, those of Aşık Daimi and Hilmi Ziya Ülken. Aşık was one of Turkey’s prominent humanists with a heightened understand of unity, which he internalized whole-heartedly. Feeling that Daimi was not a product of his geography, Uygur chose to feature two plain boulders brought directly from Daimi’s birthplace of Erzincansuggesting that a stone’s place of origin is more valuable than its type. One of the boulders carries a bronze plaque inscribed with Daimi’s name.
Uygur’s other project is the family gravesite of Professor Ordinarius Mr. Hilmi Ziya Ülken. Uygur approached it as a heterotopia, because the site harbors more than one time slice and space. Uygur disagreed with Ülken on many a topic. Nevertheless, he opted to feature a set of travertine cubes/slabs, one for each family member. Alper Derinboğaz won first place for Cihat Burak’s gravesite. He and his team described their design as a stop to pay homage to the artist-a Renaissance man in painting, architecture, literature, and ceramicand his family. The grave has two sections, one for the Burak family, the other for his bother’s family, the Ergüvens. The Burak side has four stones on it, each honoring one aspect of his artistic legacy. The tallest stone is Marmara marble and symbolizes architecture, to which he dedicated his life. The second stone is Afyon sugar marble, and symbolizes Cihat’s passion for painting. The third stone, symbolizing literature, features Rhapsody marble. The fourth stone, symbolizing ceramic, is made from Uşak marble.
Capturing Symbolism with Natural Stone
Rumeysa Zeynep Kurtuluş came home with first place for her
design of the gravesite of Emalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır. The current grave is
short, and therefore suffers from a lack of visibility. Rumeysa and her team
were surprised by there only being a tall, wispy tree at the head of the grave,
and a grave stone at the foot. Known for his pioneering [Turkish] translation
of the Qur’an, his new grave is meant to reflect his accomplishment via a more
pronounced structure. The team therefore designed a 15 x 20 x 200 cm vertical
gravestone made from Marmara marble that runs alongside the tree in order to
make the site more visible from afar.
Çağhan Keskin and his team won first place for two projects that bring out the best of natural stone: the gravesites of Halide Edip Adıvar and Optik Başkan. Halide’s gravesite is shared with her spouse of 38 years, Abdühak Adnan Adıvar (who pre-deceased her). The new grave is comprised of two platforms, atop which sit two gravestones, one of which-while it honors Halide-was deliberately designed not to be mausoleum-esque. Both platforms are made from grey andesite from the quarries of Uşak. At the beginning of the platforms where gray andesite stone extracted from Uşak quarries are used, there are tombs head stones that are made of black Basalt stone extracted from Diyarbakır quarries and again complement each other.The Keskin team’s other prizewinner, Optik Başkan’s gravesite, has a black/white-striped form with arms on either side that open outwards, lending it an iconographic feel. The design considers the entire Başkan family. There is one central gravestone made from black Diyarbakır basalt. In front of that are three sections, two for Optik’s parents, both sharing a 20 cm tomb. Optik’s own grave is separated by a basalt frame and quilted with white pebbles.
Yusuf Burak filled and his team preferred massive and not very streaky white marble in the grave, which was awarded the first prize for Halil Kaya, who is still unknown and who is the pioneer of one of the most painful events of the 90s. The grave, which is thought to use Marmara marble, is completed with bird motifs flying from the soil to the bedside.
The Dolu team chose a massive slab of white Marmara marble, with as few veins as possible. Finished the site is a motif of birds flying towards the head of the grave from the ground. Nihal Konar Naş walked home with first prize for her re-design Neyzen Tevfik Kolaylı’s grave. Referencing the nine segments of a ney (a Turkish flute-like instrument), the new 10 cm-tall, white Afyon marble grave is composed of nine steps. At the same time, it hints at Neyzan’s humble character that cared little for anything worldly or for authority. At the center of the steps is a ney with six blow holes. The intended vortex-like visual effect is akin to a person returning to back to their essence when they die. Alican Tüfkenoğlu took home first place with Orhan Kemal’s gravesite. Conceived as a piece of the cycle between death and life, the team describes their project as a cycle between visitation and memory. Within that cycle is a simple, if not modest design that considers different scenarios in retrospect to the space. It more over accommodates a kerf wall, a sprinkler, a fragrant flowerbed, both multi-person and single person seating areas, a pedestal, and narrowly gapped stepping stones that surround the site like gravestones-all of which complete the cycle. The headstone and kerf are made from Mediterranean limra, alongside kandıra and limestone from Turkey’s Marmara region, because they are easy to work with. Cream-colored Denizli travertine-or possibly marble-was thought of for the sprinkler.
The tgrave, which won the first prize, designed by Havva Yetkin and her team, was built in a relationship that was aware of the environment of the cemetery and was in contact with it, based on Turgut Uyar’s poetry understanding that feeds on the immediate flow of life. While the cemetery interacts with its surroundings and lives with it over time, exhibits an open stance open to transformation, creating veins that nature can penetrate into and using limestone, a material that is partially susceptible to corrosion, has been a decision taken in this direction.
Last, but not least, is Talha Girgin’s prize-winning gravesite for Cevdet Kılıçar and Necdet Yıldırım. Instead of two graves side by side, as currently exists, Talha proposes creating a single gravesite in which both graves united by a single stone block beneath which is open ground. The block is intended to be humble and on the same plane as the ground, thereby emphasizing oneness. A narrow gap running down the middle implies that two people are resting. The grave strongly emphasizes the two martyrs, with two masses of stones rising towards the sky at the end of the ground stone and almost touching each other. In the design, for the purpose of durability, color, texture and visual integrity, near white light gray, less perforated travertine stone was preferred.