Visual Culture | Final

I would like to start by mentioning the concepts and approaches I have inspired from while producing the architectural representation above.

At one hand, there can be talked about the concept of tabula rasa where the city was seen as tabula rasa as a zero ground, clear surface to brand new start. Here, what important is the movement rather than settlement so that it is about redefining, planning and designing the human movement in city rather than sticking the existing. On the other hand, in architecture, there are the approach of the ‘As Found’ by Alison and Peter Smithson from Independent Group. They argue “…Setting ourselves the task of rethinking architecture in the early 1950s, we meant by the “as found” not only adjacent buildings but all those marks that constitute remembrancers in a place and that are to be read through finding out how the existing built fabric of the place had come to be as it was.”  (Smithsons, 1990) “Hence, they noted that the respect for the existing ‘structuring’ of a site must be equal to our respect for the mature trees. They touched the terminology of ‘as found’ as to make it specific-to-place.” (Smithsons, 1990) That was related with old, critical regionalism, vernacular architecture, local qualities, values and so on.  

“In 1953, Alison and Peter Smithson presented their entry for the Golden Lane bombed neighbourhood at the ninth congress of CIAM.” (Malka, L. 2014) Golden Lane was more like a planning project. It was about planning the whole city, making the architecture through the idea of city planning. Since for this term’s project for Architecture Design Studio is on architecture and urban design, and my project proposes a house-based mix-used program, I thought that I can build up some correlations between the concepts this essay included and my term project. In 1960s, housing was important. While Peter and Alison Smithson were considering ‘how we can house?’, according to them, as architects there should be found a way to create a homogeneity in the way doing housing. The social housing units should not be like scattered in city. Therefore, the approach of ‘as found’ was standing up for a structure within city that creates hierarchy among people. Moreover, while creating hierarchy among people we should not separate people from each other, but we must find a way to make them live together. Considering the Dikmen Valley where the given site for term project is located, there is scattered condition of houses in the surrounding district of the city. There is the segregation of people over distinctions such as slums-residences, rich-poor. 1960s discussion about segregation and the culture of ‘as found’ asserts slums should not be divided from the more developed part of the city, there should not be separation, in fact everything should flow. Moreover, “Smithsons’ entry criticizes London’s socioeconomic division into separated neighbourhoods.” (Malka, L. 2014). They argue culture should be a whole rather than to create such different status within the city. The certain groups of social people should be all together, there should not be segregation. Additionally, “Smithsons drew their new design without removing the ‘identity’ traces of the bombed area, with a transparent façade that allows the viewer to see the existing city, with correlation to their ‘as found’ concept.” (Malka, L. 2014).  As a reminder, ‘As found’ was related with critical regionalism, vernacular architecture, local qualities and values.  At this point, when I return to my own project, my proposal is continuation of low-level urban texture, which is set against standardized higher-level blocks which has lack of identity. Neither the streets go up nor they become new buildings. Instead, specifically to my proposal, buildings have their form dissolving through the ground so that the streets being more interacted with the buildings; ‘street level buildings’. This is again related with the neighbourhood concept which relies on the local values.

Furthermore, “Smithsons believe that combining old and new will create the new form of collectiveness and public realm. In their photomontages they picked up the modernist’s idea of freestanding building, turned it over by turning solitary building into clusters, and finally put it together with the post war urban fabric.” (Malka, L. 2014).  My representation for this paper is created by using 3D modelling program where I had chance to show the surrounding relations, the old texture ‘as found’ and the new, referring to Golden Lane Project. The black and white conceptualized collage of Golden Lane Project gave me an idea on how to emphasize the network within the old. Because, “in their photomontage Smithsons draw their modernist design on the existing urban fabric.” (Malka, L. 2014). Similarly, I examined the already existed regular fabric of surrounding, buildings, pedestrians, passages, roads. I prolongated this pattern towards valley from the residential area by passing over the given site. The main purpose behind was intertwining the circulation with the urban context while valuing the valley. At the end, that network created within the site shaped from existed street and topography lines in urban scale and worked with the slope. So, while keeping the old in total black, what I wanted to emphasize mostly was to network which is in white coloured lines. In my design, conceptually, networks of pedestrians, passages, roads extended to create such a neighbour pattern by sticking to the identity traces of surrounding.

In their entry at the congress of CIAM, “Smithsons define their own: ‘Street in the Air’, wider, open to its surroundings and successive.” (Malka, L. 2014). They came up with continuous wall like structures where human movements define the space. The house buildings will look like a street, namely; ‘the street the building’. Streets being more interacted with buildings by going up, they are being places and not corridors or balconies. “They offer contiguous network or as they define: a cluster of streets which creates a new urban structure that connects to the existing.” (Malka, L. 2014). What I wanted to express is the network I created within the site, it is not like a new urban structure that connects to the existing but more like a contextually connected suggestion which wants the neighbour pattern to be continued throughout the site as well. So, using the method of Smithsons’ collage, I tried to conceptualize this street level standing where it is but buildings dissolve and come to the human scale. Therefore, this concept improves street level community access to buildings. These descending edges took shape according to the entrances, wind corridors, orientation, dimensions, proportions of enclosed and open spaces.

In short, I have established a connection between the project and concepts mentioned above and my own project, and within the frame of this connection I have tried to develop a conceptual approach and tried to explain it.


Lecture Notes

Smithson, Alison and Peter. “The ‘As Found’ and the ‘Found’” in The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of Plenty, Eds. David Robbins,Cambridge. Massachusetts: The MIT·Press, 1990pp:201-203

Malka, Liran. ALISON and PETER SMITHSON – The Shifts of Ideas from the Golden Lane Proposal to the Robin Hood Gardens (1952-1972). April, 2014.

Hande Sığın

project update

The analysis of there is three housing type (slums, 4-5 storey housings, residences)surrounding the site is what I grasped from the analysis as a start point. There is no social bond among inhabitants living high-level residences, they do not have the feeling of belonging, sharing, that is what I have criticized. Then, I have decided not to propose a gated building complex but a neighborhood, and aimed to reach that goal by making use of topography, slope, taking references from the city, street, urban grids, roads… This design is a continuation of surrounding low-level urban texture, which is set against the higher level blocks since they destruct the main urban green and the wind corridor of the valley. By intertwining circulation with the urban context, the building shares a public dimension with the city: building and open spaces. 

One of my suggestions for the site is to break the standardizing effect of repetition while keeping the already existed pattern, in fact, in a way next to the recurring housing environment criticism.

Rather than abuilding organized and navigated from level to up like residences, I wanted to make the optimum utilization of the site and aimed to redistribute the densities of both the buildings sustainably and the human livings. Rich diversities and varieties of blocks (tall, low, wide, small) create a strong sense of place and respond to many needs. In addition to this, the dynamic skyline will be taking advantage of the valley view. Then I decided to propose a neighborhood. 

As a what if question: What if solid and void displace each other in one tower plot. That would create such a courtyard housing typology. Having hard and soft green areas including the courtyards, agriculture area, bazaar place.

Seeing with the Mind

The image I choose the Blind Man, which is represented as a blindfolded man is being able to walk with sticks and see with his hands, takes place in Rene Descartes’ essay named La Dioptrique (‘On optics’). Since the blindfolded man sees with his hands, he does not need the help of his sleepy guide dog. This image has been seen firstly in Descartes’book Discours de la Methode in 1637. RenéDescartes (1596–1650) is a philosopher, mathematician and one of the major opticians of the seventeenth century. This essay aims to discuss and give place to the analysis of Descartes’ Blind Man image shown above. Briefly, first, I will be mentioning the subject of sticks being a medium that guides him namely make him see, then how this seeing process works like a natural process of seeing and the system of camera obscura since camera obscura is an optical tool to observe things. Following, the geometry from a perspective of Descartes, cartesian system and the positioning of sticks. Lastly, how blind man seeing with sticks similar to the natural seeing process, and where the brain stands at this discussion.

Descartes has doubts about the process of seeing, and this interrogation has been taken place in his essay La Dioptrique(‘On optics’) at 1637. At one point of his essay, Descartes invokes the hypothetical example of a blind man using a stick to help him navigate, proclaiming ‘one might almost say that they see with their hands’ (Paterson, 2016). Here, ‘seeing with their hands’ is the part that takes anyone’s attention; how is possible a literally blind man able to use sticks and being able to see things? Descartes mentions that the man habitually uses sticks as an extension of his senses. In order to make us understand the subject more easily, he gives examples from daily life: “It sometimes doubtless happened to you, while walking in the night without a light through places which are a little difficult, that it became necessary to use a stick in order to guide yourself;and you have then been able to notice that you felt, through the medium of the stick, the diverse objects around you and that you were even able to tell whether they were trees, or stones, or sand…” (Descartes, 2001) When we look at Descartes’ theory of visual-spatial perception; simple situation perception: “Our awareness of the direction in which our eye or head is turned enables us to determine where the object is located relative to our body, just as a blind man touching an object with a stick can tell what direction it lies in because he knows the direction in which his hand is turned.” Therefore, through the medium of the stick, a blindfolded human being is able to see as well.

Referring to the discussion of a blind man seeing through the medium of the stick, camera obscura can be likened to have a similar process of seeing, it is seen as a tool (optical device) which takes place in that seeing the process. It is like a projection of the outside world. A camera obscura in a fixed position is a tool that enables people to observe things. At this point, as French philosopherMerleau-Ponty (1908–1961), observes blind man’s stick has ceased to be an object, a tool for him, and is no longer perceived for itself; its point has become an area of sensitivity, extending the scope and active radius of touch (Ponty). It can be said that how camera obscura is a tool that a human use to observe things, the tool that the blind man uses to see is his sticks.

From another perspective, Descartes is a mathematician as well so it can be found out that he has established crucial relationships with geometry: CartesianCoordinate System which was found by René Descartes. Already, Descartes’s LaDioptrique of the blind man holding two crossed sticks seems to have beenenvisaging the Cartesian geometrization of vision (Tunstall, 2011). In the exploration of things, the Cartesian system is like a verification system which specifies each point in the universe and on x,y,z system. For the blind man case, holding two sticks AE, CE, whose length I suppose him not to know, and knowing [savoir] only the distance between his two hands A and C, and the size of the angles ACE and CAE, can from that, as though by a natural geometry, know [connaître] where E is (Wolf-Devine, 1993). One of the interesting things about the previous passage is Descartes’ “use of the verbs savoir andconnaître. The verb savoir (connoting an intellectual kind of knowledge) is used to describe the blind man’s knowledge of the distance between his hands and the angles made by the sticks, while connaître (meaning ‘to be acquainted with’) is used to describe his knowledge of where the point E is, as though he is trying through this use of the different verbs to arrive at the sort of directness and immediacy associated with the verb connaître, starting from intellectual and perhaps implicitly mathematical knowledge.” Additionally, Descartes refers to natural geometry only in his discussion of the blind man, whereas in the case of vision, he says that the length of the line and the size of the angles ‘make us know’ (connaître) where the point E is. (Wolf-Devine, 1993)

InLa Dioptrique, Descartes draws an analogy between the action of light on the eye and the movement of a blind man’s stick as it probes the surfaces of objects in its path and goes on to discuss the formation of images in the back of the eye (O’Riley, 1998). “A blind man with crossed sticks who is able to feel an object to the right with his left hand and one to the left with his right hand and a person who sees objects in their true situations ‘although the picture which they print in the eye has a wholly contrary situation’”. The blind man is not confused by the crossed sticks because he can direct his attention out from his hands. (Wolf-Devine, 1993) Briefly, when the blind man of whom it has spoken above touches some object with his sticks, the crossed sticks in the blindfolded man’s hands refer to the inversion of the retinal images. Descartes maintains that the man is still able to ‘perceive’objects in their correct relation (O’Riley, 1998). And, this is very much related with the process of seeing physically; in general, terms, so the rays from the object form an inverted image in the eye, then the image in the brain is reversed and the image is reversed, and visualization occurs.

Going back to geometry; there is axonometric projection is needed to be addressed related to the subject. Considering the perception of spatial depth, with the correct use of dimensions, angles, and distances the whole image can be produced. We do not see the object, but we know it is like this, we know the qualities of object. And, the understanding of perspective drawing: There is the illusion related from nature of the eye, our eyes cannot produce the exact image without brain, so it is like an illusion of eye. What we must do to grasp the image at this point is thinking and using our minds. Here, there is one thing that should be mentioned: René Descartes is regarded also as the father of modern philosophy for defining a starting point for existence, “I think; therefore I am.” (Editors, 2014) So, it might be said that blind man sees better than seeing man because he sees through his mind not eyes. We can see through our minds. It is in the mind, not the eye, that really “sees”.

Considering the point on the natural process of seeing, the mind needs to perceive certain images transmitted by the objects to the brain. And again, when we look at what Descartes argue on truth, mathematics, and visuality we seethe discussion of the ‘eye of the mind’ and the ‘eye of the body’. Thereis now a solution to this paradox, which is to distinguish between the”eye of the mind” and the “eye of the body” (Descartes1908, Rule V, p. 380). This “eye of the mind” sees more clearly. Going back to Descartes’ verb savoir (connoting an intellectual kind of knowledge), the “intellectual eye” sees all more clearly the more the body’s eyes remain blind.

In conclusion, as shown in the essay, the main point is to analyze the Blind Man image of Descartes by introducing of the ideas behind its creation. Respectively I have tried to mention the sticks the blind man holds, how they make him see as happened in the working system of camera obscura. Later, pointing out Descartes’ geometry, cartesian system, axonometric projection, and perspective projection accordingly the positioning of sticks. In the end, my purpose was to correlate the entire discussion to the brain. This is a process of seeing with the mind.


Descartes, R. (2001). Discourse on Method, Optics, Geometry, and Meteorology. (P. J. Olscamp, Çev.) Hackett Publishing.

Editors, B. (2014, April 1). The website: 

Krämer, S. (2012). The ‘eye of the mind’ and the ‘eye of the body’: Descartes and Leibniz on truth, mathematics, and visuality. In: Barth F.G., Giampieri-Deutsch P., Klein HD. (eds) Sensory Perception. Vienna.

O’Riley, T. (1998). Representing Illusions: space, narrative and the spectator. PhD, Chelsea College of Art & Design.

Paterson, M. (2016). Seeing with the Hands: Blindness, Vision and Touch After Descartes. Edinburgh University Press.

Ponty, M. (tarih yok). Phenomenology of Perception.

Tunstall, K. E. (2011). Blindness and Enlightenment: An Essay: With a new translation of Diderot’s ‘Letter on the Blind’ and La Mothe Le Vayer’s ‘Of a Man Born Blind’. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Wolf-Devine, C. (1993). Descartes’ theory of visual spatial. Southern Illinois University; 1st edition.

program proposal

program proposalThe nearby environment in terms of same scales projects as references.

To determine a program, we, as a group, decided to compare the case studies worked on them by our classmates, and asked for the 3D modelings, and benefited from them. We looked at the buildings’ sites, found out how many square meters they occupy and the ratio of program spaces they included. And, in order to grasp the functions and programs distributed surrounding the site, we made use of the land use map.

There is the slum area around together with 4-5 storey buildings and the other buildings which have 15+ storeys. In this scala, we thought that the program should include a residential area. Plus, as far as we observed the surrounding needs local marketing, we suggested a local commercial area working together with offices, and social-sport facilities inside. Lastly, an adequate parking lot for all of these. This was a very general program proposal, it will have details following the project process.

The critics we got on our program proposal was efficient enough that many things occurred in my mind considering the future of the project!