Turkey presents Ghost Stories of abandoned buildings at Venice Architecture Biennale

Turkey pavilion at Venice Architecture Biennale

The Turkey pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale aims to draw attention to the numerous and varied abandoned buildings in the country and suggest ways in which they can be transformed.

Curated by the founders of architecture studio SO? – Sevince Bayrak and Oral Goktas, the Ghost Stories pavilion presents hundreds of unoccupied buildings in the country and suggests how they could be reused.

Turkey pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale
Turkey’s Venice Architecture Biennale pavilion focused on the country’s abandoned buildings

“The exhibition asks, what if we listen to and understand the stories of abandoned buildings, rather than focusing on more heroic, successful examples?” said Bayrak and Goktas.

“Can we change our perceptions of beauty and functionality? The answer is yes, when we define the architecture with stories rather than objects.”

Turkey pavilion in Venice
It aims to suggest ways abandoned buildings can be reused

The exhibition aims to encourage people to understand the stories behind abandoned buildings.

It contains three components – hundreds of photos of abandoned buildings displayed on fabric hung from the ceiling, a bench at the centre of the space focused on the reasons behind the abandonments and a film showcasing potential ways in which the buildings can be reused.

Named Test Drive, the film shows how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can be used to explore the potential of abandoned structures.

Bayrak and Goktas chose to focus their Venice exhibition on Turkey’s unused buildings as they believe there are a disproportionate number in the country.

“When construction is triggered by economic considerations rather than spatial needs, the result – unused buildings – is the same anywhere in the world,” they said.

“In the case of Türkiye, the amount and the variety of unused buildings are remarkable. Ghost Stories includes examples of theme parks, hospitals, airports, hotels, schools, industrial campuses, high-rises and housing.”

Materials used for renovating buildings
The exhibits aim to demonstrate methods of reuse. Photo by Fatih Yilmaz

The focus on retaining and reusing buildings became even more significant following the huge earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria this February.

“After the earthquake, the topic of repair and reuse became even more important for us. As part of the ongoing investigation, it has been determined that almost 120,000 buildings had moderate or minor damage,” said Bayrak and Goktas.

“There is no way we can demolish and rebuild this amount of buildings, we have to investigate, reinforce and repair them. So it became crucial to discuss understanding, reinforcing and repairing as an urgent design issue, merged with engineering and crafts.”

Model of a reused buildings
It showcases models and a film. Photo by Fatih Yilmaz

Other pavilions at the Venice Architecture Biennale include the Brazil pavilion, which was filled with mud and the Estonian pavilion that took over a rental apartment to challenge housing crisis.

The photography is by Rachele Maistrello, unless stated.

The Venice Architecture Biennale takes place from 20 May to 26 November 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide for all the latest information you need to know to attend the event, as well as a list of other architecture and design events taking place around the world.

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