Urban design competitions as discursive practice in Turkey: 1980-2009

Çimen, Devrim
It is being observed that there has been an increase in the number of urban design competitions in the last decade in Turkey. Competitions are crucial methods of enriching theoretical and practical frameworks of the disciplines by creating a platform for discursive attitudes. That reveals the importance of the notion of competition as a process covering from the decision for organizing a competition to the decision of the jury for the winner and also post-competition events such as colloquium. Due to these facts, competition process as a whole can be considered as a discursive practice where diverse discursive approaches are represented via design brief, submitted projects and colloquiums that enrich and develop both theory and practice of urban design. There is not a single definition for urban design rather there are some approaches to the field mostly pointing to its interdisciplinary features. This fact makes urban design field vulnerable and open to critiques but at the same time enables contributions from diverse disciplines. It reveals the importance of competitions which forms a platform for new ideas and perspectives. Competition, with its definite structure of rules, definite role players from diverse disciplines who are involved in the process, documents produced throughout the process by different discourses, can be conceptualized as a dimension in space-time that makes it possible to observe different discourses in the same place and at the same time, sometimes in conflict with each other, sometimes overlapped onto each other and sometimes juxtaposed. Therefore competition is a platform where different discursive formations, with their objects, enunciative modalities, concepts and strategies, are exercised and practiced by human subject. When considered from that point of view, instead of focusing on the inception of urban design in Turkey, when the term is conceptualized, how and when competitions were utilized and instrumentalized in spreading the term, as a consequence how this struggle enabled positions for the field can be diagnosed more explicitly. The aim of this dissertation is to analyze urban design competition processes via design briefs, questions-answers, winning projects, jury reports and if available evaluation articles and colloquium reports with the adoption of archaeological methodology of Michel Foucault, discursive formation. His methodological approach in his book Archaeology of Knowledge(1972), has been adopted to construct a conceptual framework within that context, the study has focused on national, open, single phase competitions containing the term “urban design” in its announced title and it has been found that there are 35 cases starting from the year 1980. Design briefs, questions-answers, prize-winning projects and jury reports were analyzed, in addition survey and interview methods are utilized to reveal the discursive formations within the competition process. It is found that this is an ongoing process of forming a discursive formation when urban design is concerned and competitions play a significant role in framing such attitudes. Such a discursive analysis made within the context of competitions will help us to draw a general framework to reveal the discursive formations in the field that will help us to understand its position, grasp the underlying facts behind these processes of Urban Design Competitions in Turkey and this will give us the chance to rethink and define new frameworks and discursive formations to establish new perspectives and understandings of urban design in Turkey in the context of competitions.