I am sometimes asked what my favorite work of architecture is. Rather than name a historic or popular icon, I usually respond by saying that I like buildings that help build neighborhoods and communities. But if pressed to name one, I can only narrow the list down to two: the Pantheon in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Both are ideal in conception and outlook but also enduringly attractive in the way they have aged and adapted to different uses over the centuries. It is only over time that any design can be truly evaluated for its worthiness.
After the DCA–E Conference in Istanbul, we visited the Cappadocia region for a few days. This is the courtyard of the Kale Konak Cave Hotel where we stayed. Situated at the base of Uçhisar Castle, the enormous rock marking the highest point in the district, the setting offers a magnificent panorama of the surrounding countryside.
A highlight of our visit was walking through the Göreme Open Air Museum, a monastic enclave dating from the 4th through the 13th centuries. This is a view of the interior of Tokali Kilise, the Church of the Buckle, the largest of the more than 30 churches and chapels carved out of the relatively soft volcanic rock formations. Many of the sites contain frescoes still vibrant after all these years.
Here are a few scenes of Istanbul gathered during our recent trip there for the DCA-E Conference. The first is entering the grand courtyard of the Süleymaniye Mosque, the Mosque of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and the largest in Istanbul, designed by Sinan the Architect.
The second was drawn while sitting at the outdoor cafe of Istanbul Modern, a museum featuring the work of contemporary Turkish artists. The museum is located within a warehouse converted by Tabanlıoğlu Architects, alongside the Bosphorus in the Tophane neighborhood. This view looks back toward the city and the Nusretiye Mosque, built in 1823–1826 by Sultan Mahmut II.
The third view is from a terrace of the Istanbul Modern, looking out toward where the Golden Horn meets the Bosphorus. It is truly amazing how well the numerous ferries and other ships skillfully navigate and share this waterway.
Spent a wonderful day with a group of architecture students from Özyeğin University and other schools in Istanbul. The weather was sunny and pleasantly comfortable. We started off at the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in the Üsküdar district on the Asian side of the Bosphorus and then worked through the neighborhoods of Kuzguncuk and ended up at Beylerbeyi.
This sketch is typical of the quick demos I do when working the students, drawing either in my own journal or a student’s sketchbook. The second image was done as I was experimenting with using the Procreate app in an iPad, drawing with the Apple Pencil. I found the stylus responded really well, especially compared with stylish that I had tried.
After working with students in various countries and cultures, I have found that they are all so similar in their optimism and enthusiasm for learning.
Thoughts and prayers to the people of Tainan in the wake of last week’s earthquake. Originally established by the Dutch East India Company as Fort Zeelandia, Tainan is one of Taiwan’s oldest cities and served as its capital for over 200 years. One of my memories from visiting this ancient city is Guan Di Temple, built in the 17th century. Guan Di was a legendary hero of the Three Kingdoms Period and is worshipped in both Chinese Buddhism and Taoism
Lining Dihua Street in the Datong District of Taipei are historical shophouses, many of which are selling Chinese herbs and medicines, especially for the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities. The 19th-century shophouse is characteristic of many Southeast Asian cities, combining a shop or working space facing the street with living quarters either above or to the rear of a deep, narrow lot.
The Lin Shophouse, built in 1851, is said to be the first shophouse along Dihua Street. I first drew a partial section of the front “shop” part of the structure as I walked through the spaces and then sketched an overview of the complex showing how the shop space faces the street and is separated by a courtyard from the living quarters in the rear. In the street view, one hardly notices the Lin Shophouse as it has been obscured by later shophouses that rose two or three stories high, with Baroque-style facades that were popular during Japan’s Taisho Period.
After my visit to Dhaka, I headed to Taipei for another series of workshops with students of the National Taipei University of Technology (NTUT). In Taipei as in other cities there is a hierarchy of right-of-ways, from the relatively narrow “lanes” connecting wider “streets,” which, in turn, lead to broader “roads” that we might call avenues or boulevards. The day after I arrived and before the workshops started, I drew the view above of Lane 108 near my hotel.
This view, also down a lane, drew my attention because of the way it layered the old and the new, with Taipei 101—the world’s tallest building from 2004 until 2009, when the Burj Khalifa was erected in Dubai—rising in the background.
It’s interesting to compare the street views of Taipei with two I drew in Dhaka. In contrast to the relative orderliness of Taipei, we have the “informality” of Dhaka. But as one Bangladeshi told me: “Within the informal, there is the formal.” Shakhari Bazar is typical of the narrow lanes in Old Dhaka, lined with vendors and shops and flooded with pedestrians and rickshaws streaming through in both directions. Thanks to Professor Abu Shajahan and Sumaiyah Mamun for showing me around this historic district.
I drew this view to record a recurring sight along the streets of Dhaka, the large bundles of cables and wiring that carry electricity and communications to buildings.
I want to thank Saleh Uddin, Arefeen Ibrahim, and the faculty, staff, and students of the Department of Architecture at American Internarional Universuty-Bangladesh for their warm welcome in Dhaka. In addition to giving a presentation during AIUB’s 10 year anniversary festivities, I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop one afternoon at Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Hall. Here are a couple more photos of the event (Thanks to Professor Ibrahim) and a few pages of explanatory sketches from my sketchbook.
Thanks to Professor Ibrahim for the photos.
The above is a composite of Louis Kahn’s plan idea for the National Parliament Building in the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a more finished plan of the assembly hall level.
While we can pore over plans and sections, study photographs, even view film of a building or place, none of these media can replace the experience of actually being “there.” And so it was a real pleasure to be able to visit Kahn’s last work while in Dhaka to participate in the 10-year-anniversary festivities of the architecture program at American International University Bangladesh.
Even though I did not have the time to sketch as we toured the interior of the complex, I can still recall how Kahn extruded the simple geometric plan shapes in the third dimension and then used large cutouts in the planes to create the daylit layers of space.
This is a wide-angle view of the exterior. I broadened the viewing angle beyond 90 degrees so that I could convey a greater sense of how the complex floats on a pool of water, reflecting the riverine nature of the country.