• Whole-Worlds: Mathias Ungers in the United States, 1968–1976
    Neyran Turan

O. Mathias Ungers, Landwehrkanal-Tiergarten project, Berlin, 1973. Courtesy of Neyran Turan.

When asked about the relationship between architecture and design in 1991, German architect O. Mathias Ungers wrote: “I see myself as an architect as opposed to a designer. Design has an excessive influence on architecture today. What we are left with is ersatz-architecture.” And, in 2004, a similar lament repeats when Ungers comments on architecture’s social engagement in an interview: “Social problems cannot be resolved by architecture. Indeed you can only solve architectural problems.” Far from indicating a firm conservatism against architecture's relationships with other disciplines or a nostalgic pessimism for architecture's impotence in the world, what lies behind these statements was indeed a life-long research and speculation on architecture's collective capacity to engage with the world (city, urbanism, environment) as well as with its own core (history, autonomy) without resorting into naïve postulations at either extreme. Perhaps nothing can represent this dilemma better than Ungers’s tenure in the United States during 1970s, where he would develop a rigorous project for architecture’s role in the contemporary city. Through a focus on Ungers’s speculative projects, teaching, and participated exhibitions, the research aims to elucidate his work during this time frame as it portrays a constant search for a new realism through a specific articulation between form and scale.

Neyran Turan is an architect, an assistant professor at Rice University's School of Architecture, and a partner at NEMESTUDIO, a research and design collaborative based in Houston. Turan's work draws on the relationship between geography and design to highlight their interaction for new aesthetic and political trajectories within architecture and urbanism. She is the founding chief-editor of the Harvard Graduate School of Design's journal New Geographies, which focuses on contemporary issues of urbanism and architecture, and is the editor-in-chief of the first two volumes of the journal: New Geographies 0 (2008), New Geographies: After Zero (2009). She received her doctoral degree from Harvard Design School, holds a master's degree from Yale University's School of Architecture, and a BArch from Istanbul Technical University. Turan's recent writings have been published in MONU (2014), MAS Context (2014), San Rocco (2014), Conditions (2014), ThinkSpace Pamphlets (2013), 20/20: Editorial Takes on Architectural Discourse (2011), Landscapes of Development (2013), Superlative City: Dubai and the Urban Condition in the Early Twenty-First Century (2013), and Megacities (Springer-Verlag, 2010). She is currently completing the manuscript of her book titled Geographic Istanbul: Episodes in the History of a City's Relationship with its Landscape.