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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.93 Santiago ago. 2016 


Ground as Program
Reframing the Skyline

José Mayoral *(1), Kevin Murray **(2)

* Adjunct Assistant professor, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

* Architect, Michael Maltzan Architecture Inc., Los Angeles, California, USA.


In a city where the accumulation of monuments has turned public space into nothing else than the platform from which to photograph them, the addition of ground layers offers an alternative relationship between the city and its history. For if the monument is what remains from the past, the elevated ground –as excavated sediments– allows a new urban reading from a counterintuitive operation: leaving segments the city underground.

Keywords: square, ground, strata, monuments, Turkey.

A product of time and empire, public space in Istanbul is a strata of citizen interests and institutional powers. Born from the seven hills of the historic peninsula, the city fabric negotiates among moments of topographic and monumental confluence. Atop each crest, historic landmarks define a skyline that acts as both a way-finding and place-making urban device. This in turn defines spaces of public significance as the intersection of hill and skyline.

Beyazit Square, central to the historic peninsula, was once the main forum for public gathering but has since ceded its power to the larger emptiness of Taksim Square. Not only a product of capacity, Beyazit Square is positioned as an urban remain –the space shared among monumental objects but without singular ownership– further reducing the potency of a unified public power through programmatic division and competition.

Project image
© Jose Mayoral & Kevin Murray

New skylines: views from outside Beyazit Square
© Jose Mayoral & Kevin Murray

Project plan. Sin escala

Project model
© Jose Mayoral & Kevin Murray

Our approach brings a collective weight to the emptiness, subduing the power of immediate monuments and enhancing the infinite extension of ground as program. This project adds a new layer of land to the existing site that manipulates the relationship of ground and skyline and the connection with the monuments. The addition is qualified by two components. First, ground surfaces are raised strategically to edit the skyline through the picturesque. This topography removes programmatic centrality and tricks the way-finding as perceptual triangulation among monuments. Secondly, elevation changes between the existing and new ground are made legible at monument edges, forming a system of scars in the surface of the topography. Within these scars exist the extension of monumental sequences, reverberating from the landmark which the scar embeds. The proportion of spaces in the scar is designed such that all other skylines are eliminated, consequently producing a surface relationship to the immediate monument. Public space becomes a program unto itself, an emptiness with an irreverence to the powers at its periphery.

Project images
© Jose Mayoral & Kevin Murray

Project model
© Jose Mayoral & Kevin Murray

Section through scar
© Jose Mayoral & Kevin Murray

Architects: José Mayoral, Kevin Murray / Location: Beyazit Square, Istanbul, Turkey / Commission: Meydan Designing the Surfaces of Public Space around Beyazit Square, Department of Urban Planing and Design, Harvard GSD / Project surface: 86.600 m² / Site surface: 68.300 m² / Project year: 2014 / Renders: José Mayoral, Kevin Murray.

1. José Mayoral | Architect, Universidad de Sevilla, Spain, 2010. MArch II, Harvard University, USA, 2014. His work has been exhibited at Harvard University (2015), the MoMA (2015) and at the Ephemeral Urbanism Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. He is coeditor of Planning for Conservation: Looking at Agra (2015) and coauthor of Ephemeral Urbanism: Cities in Constant Flux (2016). Between 2014-2015 he was Teaching Associate at Harvard University. Currently, he develops as Instructor professor at Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Adjunct Assistant professor at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

2. Kevin Murray | Bachelor of Science in Architecture, Washington University St. Louis, USA, 2011. MArch I, Harvard University, USA, 2015. KPF Traveling Fellow, 2014 Frederick Widmann Scholar (2011) and Fitzgibbon Scholar (2007), he is currently project designer at Michael Maltzan Architecture Inc., in Los Angeles, California.

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