Syracuse University

Summer Program in Turkey Receives $5,000 Grant

Summer Program in Turkey Receives $5,000 Grant

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East Meets West: Representing Architecture at the Crossroads in Istanbul

In summer 2012, 16 undergraduate students spent nearly two weeks studying the most important cultural and architectural sites in Istanbul and the ancient city of Ephesus, Turkey. Co-taught by SU architecture professor Elizabeth Kamell and SU Florence photography professor Stefania Talini, East Meets West also featured lectures and tours by local scholars and experts in their fields.   

Hagia Sophia by Pongpon PunyanaramitdeeIn recruiting students for the new program, Professor Kamell realized there were interested students who would need extra funding to be able to go. She learned that the Turkish Coalition of America had regularly awarded SU Istanbul Center semester students minority scholarships each semester since the Center opened in spring 2011. Kamell wrote and submitted a TCA Travel Grant proposal. The program was awarded funding, which meant that eight of the 16 program students received additional grants.    

Open to architecture and photography students, all students learned the value of working with both representational methods, through daily intensive practice of analytical drawing (what the camera cannot see) and photographic narrative (information that cannot be produced by hand). Individually mentored by both professors, students and faculty also participated in almost daily group crits.    

SU art photography major Hannah Nast said at first she struggled with the demands of architectural drawing. But she was also fascinated by how the architecture students worked. “They saw things from a different point of view and with their imaginations (really with their brains, but to me it was like magic). They were able to accurately draw what the tops of buildings looked like, while they were inside them-- just by looking at the walls.”

For Ebony Jones, a third-year architecture student, the exact opposite was true. "I definitely learned to see things from a photographer's prospective. It was hard for me at first because in architecture we are always thinking about the relationship of a part of a building and its whole," said Jones. "We use different types of drawings to represent different spacial qualities of a building. Photography is different, you have to capture the essence of the building in one picture."

Architecture junior Pongpon Punyaramitdee called Istanbul one of the most magnificent cities he has visited. “The layers of history and architecture that it carries along is truly mind-blowing.” Pongpon said he was impressed by all the sites visited and enjoyed drawing all of them, but particularly the Hagia Sophia. “The first time I walked into the space, I paused for a minute just to admire its greatness and the intelligence of the people who built it. As I was drawing, I was even more amazed because the information it carries started to show in the drawings.”

Kamell reports that TCA’s support of the program provided another added benefit: “It opened doors to the TCA offices in Istanbul and introduced students to aspects of Turkish-American culture about which they were not formerly aware. All of them came away from the TCA presentation in Istanbul with a greater awareness of the role and importance of Turkey in the geo-political landscape and of the active role of Turkish-Americans in global politics.”

The program concluded with a reception and formal critique at Bahcesehir University, with input on student portfolios from Turkish architecture faculty. Kamell noted that “the presentation and discussion at the end was academically meaningful—an opportunity to evaluate student work and contextualize output.”

The reception at Bahcesehir also provided an opportunity for students to say their farewells to the city of Istanbul, as they looked out over the Bosphorus and the great ships passing in the night, at the crossroads where East has met and West for millennia. 

You can view more photos from Punyaramitdee, Nast, and Jones here.