East Meets West: Designing an Institute of World Religions in Istanbul
Globally, over 65 million people have become involuntary displaced from their homes, their families and their livelihoods, victims of socio-political and cultural conflicts, manmade and environmental disasters. A global crisis is unfolding on an unprecedented scale.
Refugee camps are today’s architecture of displacement, monuments of human suffering. The architectural language of the refugee crisis is one of grids of tents, tarpaulins and containers; a language of lightness and vulnerability. This failed architecture of displacement may be seen as an opportunity to re-evaluate how architecture may respond global crises.
This thesis therefore aims to construct an innovative, adaptable infrastructure that responds to the global migration crisis. Slavoj Žižek’s idiosyncratic text ‘Against the Double Blackmail’ is taken as an intellectual provocateur for the research process. Žižek offers a highly speculative and radical response to global mass migration, affirming a utopian reconstruction of society as our only option to resolve this global crisis. Therefore, the architectural construction of ‘utopia’ as a highly poetic and symbolic response to the global migration crisis is examined and developed.
The research is set in Istanbul, a geographical and cultural meeting point between Eastern and Western civilisations, and an international hub for refugees. The site itself is located in the ruins of St. Polyeuktos, an ancient, abandoned and dilapidated church in the centre of the cityBoth analogue and digital drawing are embraced as design methodologies to examine the architectural representation of Žižek’s utopia. The thesis culminates with a dynamic, sculptural formal expression of Žižek’s utopia, through the construct of an Institute of World Religions.