Architecture to Beautify the World

A preeminent figure in architecture raised in Turkey, a field where indigenousness and properness are much needed: Turgut Cansever

Turgut Cansever was born on 12 September 1921 in Antalya as the oldest of five children of Madame Saime and her husband, Doctor Hasan Ferid who was one of the founders of Turk Associations. Cansever completed his secondary education in Lycee de Galatasaray and graduated from State Fine Arts Academy Department of High Architecture in 1946. He completed his doctoral thesis titled “Column Heads in Ottoman and Seljuk Architectures” sorusuin Istanbul University Department of Art History in 1949 which was at the same time the first doctoral thesis in field of art history in Turkey.

Cansever’s first professional experience was the restoration of Sadullah Pasha Seaside Residence in 1949, and between 1947 – 1951 he acted as a faculty member in the school he had graduated from. Cansever who opened an architects office with Abdurrahman Hancı in 1951, married Madame Nilüfer in 1952. Cansever made projects such as Grand Anatolia Club Hotel, Karatepe Open Air Museum, and Turkish Historical Society building in 1950s.

He worked as a planning consultant in Istanbul Municipality in 1957 and his first works regarding development method for Istanbul metropolis, improved solution alternatives. Mr. Turgut who participated in efforts to establish Development Plan Law and Ministry of Public Works and Housing in 1957, enabled the establishment of Istanbul Municipality Planning Directorate in 1961 and had the Istanbul transition period structural plan prepared. Cansever was a graduation project supervisor for two half-terms in 1960 in Middle East Technical University (METU), a consultant in Ministry of Public Works and Housing and the head of Istanbul Master Plan Bureau in 1974-1975. Between 1975-1980 he acted as a consultant for Istanbul municipality for implementation of water, sewage, transportation, housing, tourism, preservation, city center areas, new settlements, new industrial zones, port and similar projects envisaged as part of Istanbul metropolis development plan. He worked as a training program preparation consultant in Mecca University in 1983. He became a member in Ağa Han Architecture Prize Master Jury the same year.

Published numerous articles on architecture and urban affairs, Turgut Cansever received two Ağa Han Architecture Prizes in 1980 with Turkish Historical Society Building renovation (1951-1967, Ankara, with Ertur Yener) and Ahmet Ertegün House renovation (1971-1973, Bodrum) and for a third time in 1992. The only architect to receive this prize three times, Turgut Cansever’s sentences expressing his goals in architecture, may inspire all architects in answering the question why they chose architecture: “It has been my duty to enable the development of architecture in line with the frame described in the hadith ‘the real mission of humanity in the world is to beautify it’, to correctly present social, spiritual and faith-related architectural issues, and pay efforts to avert illusions.” Although he won Diyarbakır College competition in 1958 with Ertur Yener and Mehmet Tataroğlu and METU international project competition in 1960, these projects were never implemented. He drafted Ankara National Museum project in 1980, Avanos Kaya Hotel project in 1984, housing projects for Ankara Batıkent district, Muğla Yağcılar Inn project however these were not implemented like his numerous other projects. Among his other executed works are Çengelköy Sadullah Pasha Seaside Mansion restoration, Karatepe Open Air Museum, Salacak Çürüksulu Ahmet Pasha Seaside Mansion, Muharrem Nuri Birgi House renovation, Rafet Ataç House, Akın Seaside Mansion, and Underwater Archeology Institute.

Beşir Ayvazoğlu who collected the interviews he held with Turgut Cansever in a book titled ‘Beautifying the World’, also contributed in a series on Turgut Cansever in ‘Gerçek Hayat’ magazine: “The personwe have lost is not just a great architect, urban planner and thinker, but at the same time a paragon of character who struggled alone and had the courage of his convictions, who took his work seriously and wished to complete everything he started with the same meticulousness and earnestness which made him an undesired associate for those ambitious to earn more through cutting corners. He could not stand mediocrity. He would defend his ideas with a great courage and persistence under all conditions and occasions. He was a versatile artist; he painted in his youth, and played reed flute. He was also maybe the first and only architect who had a doctorate degree in art history. He took interest in Sufism and philosophy, and was an avid reader. I don’t know how many times I saw ‘Füsusü’l-Hikem’ by İbnü’l-Arabi on his desk. His architecture went far beyond architecture and was based on a longcontemplated philosophy. He wrote texts and works all conservatives who do not know how to preserve what, how and why must read. In my opinion Turgut Cansever was the person who established the basic principles of creative conservatism in Turkey and in a way put this conservatism into practice with his ideas and works.” Cansever passed away on 22 February 2009. We pay our tribute.

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Suavi Kemal Yazgıç

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