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  • Whole-Worlds: Mathias Ungers in the United States, 1968–1976
    Neyran Turan

O. Mathias Ungers, Landwehrkanal-Tiergarten project, Berlin, 1973. Courtesy of Neyran Turan.

When asked about the relationship between architecture and design in 1991, German architect O. Mathias Ungers wrote: “I see myself as an architect as opposed to a designer. Design has an excessive influence on architecture today. What we are left with is ersatz-architecture.” And, in 2004, a similar lament repeats when Ungers comments on architecture’s social engagement in an interview: “Social problems cannot be resolved by architecture. Indeed you can only solve architectural problems.” Far from indicating a firm conservatism against architecture's relationships with other disciplines or a nostalgic pessimism for architecture's impotence in the world, what lies behind these statements was indeed a life-long research and speculation on architecture's collective capacity to engage with the world (city, urbanism, environment) as well as with its own core (history, autonomy) without resorting into naïve postulations at either extreme. Perhaps nothing can represent this dilemma better than Ungers’s tenure in the United States during 1970s, where he would develop a rigorous project for architecture’s role in the contemporary city. Through a focus on Ungers’s speculative projects, teaching, and participated exhibitions, the research aims to elucidate his work during this time frame as it portrays a constant search for a new realism through a specific articulation between form and scale.

Neyran Turan is an architect, and currently an assistant professor at Rice University's School of Architecture. She was the founding chief-editor of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design's (GSD) journal New Geographies, which focuses on contemporary issues of urbanism and architecture, and was the editor-in-chief of the first two volumes of the journal: New Geographies 0 (2008), and New Geographies: After Zero (2009). Turan is also cofounder of NEMEstudio, a recently established research and design collaborative based in Houston. She received her PhD from Harvard University's GSD, holds a master's degree from Yale University's School of Architecture, and a BArch from Istanbul Technical University. Turan's work focuses on the relationship between scale and form to highlight their interaction for new trajectories within contemporary architecture and urbanism. Turan's recent and upcoming publications include articles and book chapters in San Rocco (2014), MAS Context (2014), Architecture and Geography (Routledge, 2014), Conditions #13 (2014), Thinkspace Pamphlets #1: PAST FORWARD (2013), 20/20: Editorial Takes on Architectural Discourse (AA Publications, 2011), Landscapes of Development (Harvard University Press, 2013), Superlative City: Dubai and the Urban Condition in the Early Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press, 2013), Megacities (Springer-Verlag, 2010), and ACSA: Flip Your Field (Chicago, 2010). Turan has also acted as the assistant editor for the book Joseph Lluis Sert: The Architect of Urban Design (with Hashim Sarkis and Eric Mumford, Yale University Press, 2008). She is currently completing a book manuscript, Geographic Istanbul: Episodes in the History of a City's Relationship with its Landscape.