RE(MINDING) ‘LABOR’, ‘PEACE’ AND ‘DEMOCRACY’ :
AN EXPERIENCE-BASED APPROACH TOWARDS THE EMBODIMENT OF COLLECTIVE MEMORY
The concept of terrorism and terrorist incidents has been a critical issue on the agenda of Turkey and all around the world, especially in the past 35 years. Within this context, October 10 incident has a particular position not only because it is the deadliest massacre in the history of the country, but also because of its locale and context. The attack took place in the Station Square which is a historically significant site for republican Ankara and targeted the “Labor, Peace and Democracy” rally organized by prominent unions and associations. The rally represents the notions of ‘labor’, ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ and their awareness as indispensable concepts that must co-exist both in personal and communal life in every scale perpetually. In a broader perspective, the awareness of the unity of these notions had a substantial impact on the approach of constructing the early republican Ankara and shaped the ideology behind the planning of the city. The meeting is a verbalization of these concepts through its discourse, also further expresses them by its very place. Therefore, the incident can be considered as a direct attack towards the values of ‘labor’, ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’ and the socio-politically meaningful urban site of the capital. For this reason, the design of Labor, Peace and Democracy Memorial Square and Place should be considered in two interconnected aspects: from October 10 to a memorial expression and from October 10 to a public square.
2. From October 10 to a ‘Memorial’
First aspect initially brings out the questioning of the term ‘memorial’. Regarding its dictionary meaning, it refers to a statue or structure established to remind people of a person or an event. However, when unfolding the term further through a detailed research, it is seen that although the main emphasis of the term is on the act of ‘reminding’, what a memorial does, in most of the cases, is the total opposite of ‘reminding’. The reason of that is the superficial understanding of the memorial operation only as a physical encounter with a formal reconstitution of an individual or an event.
“The more memory comes to rest in its exteriorized forms, the less it is experienced internally. In the age of mass memory production and consumption, there seems to be an inverse proportion between the memorialization of the past and its contemplation. For once we assign monumental form to memory, we have to some degree divested ourselves of the obligation to remember. In shouldering the memory-work, monuments may relieve viewers of their memory-burden.”1
In this respect, memorial as a physical reconstitution absorbs the memory and takes the responsibility of ‘remembering’ by excluding the viewer. In other words, the memorial goes through the operation of ‘remembering’ by itself and remains as a detached formation in everyday life.
Memories are obliged to be forgotten in the form of passive objects.
What is aimed to be achieved by the memorial of October 10 incident is an everlasting ‘remembrance’ of not only the 103 people that were killed violently, but also the importance of the concepts they were defending during the incident and the sublimity of defending them.
Unfortunately, in today’s Turkey, most people take these concepts for granted and don’t feel the urge to protect them or fight for them. However, their progression highly depends on the awareness of the challenges of constructing and maintaining a system that is based upon the notions ‘labor’, ‘peace’ and ‘democracy’, and advocating them on an individual and communal basis. In that sense, those 103 people, who were very commonsensical human beings, transcend from being only individual bodies and turn into the representatives of these indispensable concepts. Therefore, rather than only approaching them as individual beings, they should be further understood and redefined through intense notions such as ‘awakening’ and ‘confronting’.
*Instead of directly externalizing any individual and letting them fall into oblivion, this memorial proposal aims to constantly re-create the notions of ‘awakening’ and ‘confronting’ through a process-based design approach. Therefore, the initial design idea is that the memorial itself should be the experience of ‘awakening’ and ‘confronting’. But it shouldn’t refer to a temporal experience that is associated with a specific time. Rather, the experience should be composed of an endless process that continues over time so that it never turns into a passive object.
From October 10 to a ‘Public Square’
Second aspect requires the analysis of public spaces in the scope of Ankara. According to Lörcher Plan, thirteen public squares were proposed in the city, but only some of them were realized including Millet, Hükümet, İtfaiye, İstasyon, Kızılay, Sıhhiye, Zafer, Lozan and Tandoğan Squares. Today, unfortunately, most of them have changed into crossroads or they lost their functions by the operation of defective policies. In his plan, Lörcher actually aimed to create a semantic unification between the historical and the new city and the most important highlight was the axis between Parliament, İstasyon Square and Ankara Castle. By this way, following Ali Cengizkan’s interpretation2, it could be said that Lörcher generated an urban metaphor emphasizing the flow from the hegemony and culture of the citadel to the republican administration by the use of public squares. In that sense, the creation of these public squares in the early republican days, reflects the shift on the relationship between individuals and modern public squares and the semantic changes they brought to the city. Along the same line, these lost urban squares show the effects of the changing hegemonies and the disconnection of the individuals from the city since 1950s. Space is a mode of thinking about politics and different images of space adopt a different understanding of politics and the history of the public squares in Ankara embodies this condition.
As Joseph Margolis3 points out, there are no ultimate rules of politics, the controlling agent for politics is the habitudes. In other words, what is obeyed in politics is the opportunistic habitudes created by the expressions of the hegemonic power in play. From an urban scale, the detachment of the citizens from public squares in Ankara reveals these imposed habitudes. Therefore, following Margolis’ thoughts, in order to achieve a political expressiveness, design of a memorial square should create a language that can compete against the imposed habits of the hegemonic power.
*In the light of these, the design approach of the square is composed of two main ideas. First one is the pedestrianization of the site by eliminating the crossroad in front of the station. In this way, the traffic flow can be maintained by the existing underpass and a fully-functioning pedestrian square can be achieved that recalls the pedestrian sovereignty in the city, as planned for the old İstasyon Square. The second idea suggests that the public square should be a social product which is produced by Lefebvre’s spatial triad: the perceived, conceived and lived4. In other words, the proposal defends the shift from ‘things in space’, which cannot be thought separately from the political and social life, to the actual ‘production of space’. Therefore, the public space should be produced slowly through a dialectical process as the ‘space of/for the society’ rather than through pre-assigned functions and activities.
3. Design Phases of the Labor, Peace and Democracy Memorial Square and Place
Approaching the site of October 10 incident as a ‘memorial’ and a ‘public space’ created the main design ideas. Building on top of those ideas, the design proposal is composed of four phases.
3.1. Basic Footprint Analysis
The design proposes a memorial in the form of a constant experience which must be an inevitable encounter rather than an optional one in the boundaries of the square. Creating an inevitable experience is possible through manipulating the surface of the square. More explicitly, the experience must take place on ground level which the human body is in a constant interaction with through feet. In this respect, the basic footprints were decoded for the cases of ‘individual activity’ which is mainly composed of ‘standing’, ‘walking’, ‘running’; and ‘political gathering’. The relation, composition and types of these acts were analyzed, and certain typologies were extracted with the average step length information.
3.2. The Fields of Tension
The bombing spots correspond to the fields of tension in the site regarding the intense trauma they have been carrying since the incident. Therefore, the site is organized through radial zones dispersing from the bombing spots and losing their intensity while getting farther.
3.3. The Grid
In the light of the parameters obtained from the footprint analysis and the bombing spots, a strictly defined and ordered grid system is created. The grid system is composed of two elements: the major element corresponding to stone pavers and the infilling element referring to the stone chips. Within ‘the fields of tension’, the major elements become larger and the boundaries of the infilling element get narrower through a centrifugal movement. In other words, the stone units get larger when moving away from the bombing spots generating a composition made up of three different modules: small, medium and large. The dimensions of the elements are determined according to the outcomes of the footprint analysis. When the dimensions of the stone units and the infilling material change, the characteristics of the areas made up of different modules vary. The areas made up of small paver units contain the largest infillings which cause difficulty in the movement of people are called ‘challenging zones’. The areas having medium-size paver units and comparatively smaller infillings are defined as ‘tolerable zones’. The outer areas containing large paver units and the narrowest infilling are called as ‘unconstrained zones’.
In addition to the gridal layout on the surface, varying heights are defined for some of the units which broadens the activity palette on the square in terms of providing different spatial compositions and creating elements for seating, lying down, standing and so on. However, as indicated previously, they don’t impose a certain function or approach.
Existing trees and the sculpture ‘Miras’ by the artist Metin Yurdanur are considered as important contextual and cultural values which are emphasized visually by the design proposal, and are given functions as the binding elements between the design proposal and the site.
3.4. The Process
The implementation of the units differs in terms of two aspects. Large and medium paver units are directly placed on the ground and the stone chips function as the infilling material between the units. However, small units are placed directly on the stone chips. In addition to their implementation, the thickness of the pavers also differ for the small units. Small units have 1cm thickness so that they may easily break in time. By that, a particular quality is attributed to the pavers at the ‘challenging zones’. The ‘challenging zones’ behave as a passage area between the two sides of the square. Due to this layout, it is not possible to skip that area when moving in the direction between the train station and Cumhuriyet Street.
In the ‘challenging zones’, due to their slenderness and implementation method, it is foreseen that the paver units will slowly break down in a certain amount of time with the dense pedestrian circulation and this generates an endless dynamic state which results in an ever-changing experience. Since it becomes hard to move gradually, the visitors are captured by the moment unintentionally during the experience and left with a kind of unrestful feeling. Since the paver stones are in constant transformation, each time of passing through the ‘challenging zones’ generates a fresh state of (re)minding. Instead of repetitive encounters with the same passive memorial object, the design proposal creates an experience-based process of re-visualizing, re-thinking and re-creating. In this way, the memorial doesn’t dictate anything, it lays the burden of (re)minding on the visitors themselves.
The function of the ‘challenging zones’ reveals a conflict by suggesting a strictly defined grid and then proposing its destruction. The successively occurring construction, deconstruction and reconstruction through the active participation of the visitors transforms the ordered space created in the beginning and generates a dynamic setting.
Although the (re)minding process persisting in the ‘challenging zones’ effects the frames of minds, it is a process that continuously re-produces itself without interrupting the accessibility conditions and the ‘production of space’ within the boundaries of the proposed public square.