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Neyran Turan Receives Seed Grant for Cadavre Exquis

This year the Berkeley Center for New Media offered four junior faculty research grants to seed ambitious academic scholarship in new media at Cal. Neyran Turan (Architecture) was selected for “New Cadavre Exquis: Matter, Debris, Ruins.” Read more about the project below!

Consider three depictions. First is English botanist Richard Deacon’s book Flora of the Colosseum from 1855 that records 420 species of plants growing in the ruin state of the Colosseum, some of which were rare species whose seeds were primarily transported to the site by the animals and slaves brought from Asia and Africa for the city’s numerous spectacles. Second is a new rock named Plastiglomerate, a neologism for a new kind of stone proposed currently by geologists and oceanographers. This rock is hardened by molten plastic and natural debris and presented as a marker of human impact on the earth’s geology. Third is the 3D Warehouse, an online open source digital library, in which more than two million 3D models of all kinds of objects including buildings, natural features, tools, machinery, etc. are collected. When positioned next to one another, these three depictions not only put forward an important sampling for the idea of material accumulation in the different kinds of spatial containers (the architectural ruin, the geological earth, and the digital media), but they also point to a larger conversation about the very nature of that accumulation, i.e., our material rubbish and ruins, both at the present and for the future. From Jennifer Gabrys’ book Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics, which provides us with an intellectual framework to understand the material, political and spatial infrastructures of electronic trash, to media theorist Jussi Parikka’s geological studies of media, which build an alternative theoretical lineage for materials, chemistry and waste, can we consider a similar intellectual framework in our understanding of architectural materiality?

My current research project titled Long Span: Matters Around Architecture aims to expand on these questions through a particular focus on architectural materiality. From the recalcitrance of a particular raw matter and its extraction from a specific geographic location, to its processing, transportation, and construction into a desired finished effect in a building, to its maintenance, demolition and waste, the research aims to open future dialogues in relation to the spatial and temporal long-span of architectural materiality. The project showcases this long-span through nine case studies looking at particularly lavish or widely used nine building materials: certain types of marble, wood, glass, travertine, copper, aluminum, concrete, leather, and Styrofoam.

I have been currently working on this research through various publication and design projects. Most recently, an initial version of this research was presented as an exhibition at the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial between October – November 2016, which put some of the intellectual and disciplinary ambitions of the project forward.The BCNM Seed Grant Fellowship will expand this initial framework of the research through a new focus area in Summer 2017, which will speculate on the long span of architectural materiality through digital media. With the help of this seed grant, I will work on an experimental mobile application software (mobile app) that would be available online and via mobile devices. The app would allow users to (1) assemble an architectural structure via a sampling process of digital ready-made objects as an almost new surrealist cadavre exquis, (2) assign a select material to their assembled structure, (3) simulate the structure’s ruination and waste. While my current publication and installation projects on this topic have been useful platforms to present the project to specific audiences of architecture and design, I would like to expand the audience of this work to a wider public spectrum via new media. My goal is to start a new research trajectory that I will develop within the next couple of years and, more broadly, to open up a range of aesthetic and political concerns for public imagination.

While focusing on the long-span of architectural materiality and form, my project aims to build unconventional linkages between architecture, digital media, and geology. It positions certain problems brought by climate change and the Anthropocene, such as materiality, obsolescence, and waste in architectural terms. Inherent in the premise of the project is the proposition of a new conception of architecture’s engagement with the wider world through a specific focus on design’s capacity to impact planetary imagination.

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