During their visit to the 18th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, ArchDaily had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Sevince Bayrak and Oral Göktaş, founders of the Istanbul-based studio SO? Architecture and Ideas, curators for the Pavilion of Türkiye. Their exhibition, titled Ghost Stories: Carrier Bag Theory of Architecture, explores the status and hidden potential of abandoned buildings across Türkiye to discover more hopeful proposals for the future. The conversations opened with an exploration of the status of these forgotten structures and their hidden potential, leading into the intentions behind the exhibition in Venice and the curator’s message for the wider audience.
The concept behind the exhibition was born in 2021 when the SO? architects were working on a project to transform a former swimming pool into a public events hall, prompting them to consider the role of abandoned structures and the possibilities for reconversion. According to the curators, this idea is especially relevant in the context of Türkiye, where buildings are constructed for economic and political reasons, leading to a large number of them remaining unused and discarded.
These include a surprising variety of programs and typologies, from hospitals and schools to shopping malls, residential developments, and even amusement parks, one of which had only been in use for 10 days before being deserted. Through this exhibition, the curators hope to highlight the presence of these structures, often ignored for decades, and to prompt people to think imaginatively about how these buildings could better serve their needs.
The discussion always revolves around: ‘is it beautiful or ugly, is it good, is it the best it could be?’ Instead, we try to see abandoned buildings as resources, not categorize them according to their style. If you understand them as resources, the idea of the transformation becomes so much easier, with any added pressures. – Oral Göktaş
Prior to the exhibition in December 2022, the SO? team organized an open call to compile documentation of these abandoned structures. The idea behind this initiative was to maintain the same ethos, not to create something new, like new photo series, but to research and explore the existing materials. The open call was also an opportunity to expand the conversation to understand various points of view and the diverse ways in which all people relate to these buildings.
Over 900 photos and several videos were collected, which are now displayed and projected on the floating cloud-like installation on the ceiling of the pavilion. Underneath them, the workbenches offer tools, strategies, methods, and discussion of the possible future of the structures, showing visitors a glimpse into the potential transformations. A manifesto and a book also explore the concept behind the exhibition in more detail.
We would be happy if the visitors could leave this exhibition with a feeling of hope and a feeling of power, with the conviction that they can do something to keep these buildings alive and transform them from the ghosts of the cities into lively organisms for the city. – Sevince Bayrak
The theme of abandonment and untapped resources has been a recurring one during this edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale, with several national pavilions exploring their countries’ potential for redevelopment. The Bulgarian Pavilion explores school abandonment and urban decline; Germany has chosen ARCH+ and Summacumfemmer Büro Juliane Greb as curators with a project focused on repair and maintenance, while the UAE pavilion, curated by Faysal Tabbarah, chose to explore the potential of the dry landscape of his country. While onsite in Venice, ArchDaily discussed with some of the curators of the national pavilions, including a conversation about “Earth as Ancestral and Future Technology” with the curators of the Brazilian Pavilion, and a discussion on the role of Sámi architecture with Joar Nango, James Taylor-Foster and Carlos Mínguez Carrasco, who organized the exhibition for the Nordic Pavilion.
We invite you to check out ArchDaily’s comprehensive coverage of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023.