Imaginary world of a paper architect: Nazımi Yaver Yenal

Published 01.10.2017 20:15
Updated 01.10.2017 20:16
A sketch by Nazımi Yaver Yenal.
A sketch by Nazımi Yaver Yenal.

The Istanbul Research Institute commemorates architect Nazımi Yaver Yenal, a unique representative of 20th century Turkish architecture who lived from 1904 to 1987, with a new exhibition. Based on his exceptional archive that reflects his nearly 50-year-long career, the exhibition brings light to a typical representative of the idealist Republican generation.

Having spent his adolescence during the final years of the Ottoman Empire, Yenal was trained at the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (Faculty of Fine Arts) under the influence of his teacher Giulio Mongeri's notion of eclecticism and graduated valedictorian. Shaped by the subsequent competitions he won, his career flourished with the experience he gained in Paris and Berlin where he was sent on a state scholarship as part of the cultural policies of the early Republican years. He matured while he was an instructor at the Academy of Fine Arts, as he grew close to a group of avant-garde German architects that ended up in Istanbul as a result of extraordinary political conditions.

Described in his letters as being "much ahead of us" by Sedad Hakkı Eldem during his study years, almost none of Yenal's designs were constructed although his talent was beyond question, and he had a career in architecture that was quite promising at the beginning. His unexecuted designs and the hopes he had created tell a powerful story along with his disappointments and the reasons why his designs were not constructed.

Falling outside of the official architectural discourse and forgotten in time, Yenal created for himself an alternative realm of architectural production consisting only of drawings. The colossal archive he created with his drawings was first preserved in his room at the Academy and later in his house after his retirement. The archive was dispersed after his death.

Nazımi Yaver's depictive fantasies and drawings have a good command of both the repertoire of classical architecture and modernism. They correspond to imaginary designs independent from factors associated with the act of construction, the main purpose of architecture and derive their strength from this liberty. His unconstructed and unshared designs privatize and subjectify architecture, which is a public domain of art. Shaped by imagination, Yenal's aesthetic is inevitably defined intertwined with personal codes. This subjectivity forces us to read not only through the designs, but also their creator to have a good grasp of Yenal's drawings. With his avant-garde drawings remaining on paper, Nazımi Yaver Yenal is perhaps the most important "paper architect" of Turkish architecture throughout the Republican period.

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