HighGround is a fictional urban vision on rapidly growing Istanbul; an urban heterotopia in a dense metropolitan area; Mecidiyeköy. The story questions the possible future of the area with insufficient infrastructural services, overpopulation and excessive construction. HighGround is the story of a speculative radical solution to the problems of the city; the creation of a new layer above the city which turns the ‘infrastructure’ into a ‘higher’ structure which hosts absent services essential to run the city; energy, water, logistics, food and transportation. HighGround later becomes an organic creature, which covers the city gradually, maintaining more and more with its new residents and growing programs.
Neither defending nor criticizing, the project investigates the speculative future focusing on certain moments at certain places to tell the story of this new urban layer. HighGround is not a product of architects, it is a new layer of the city produced by politics to generate greater income, easier solutions or stupid choices. It is not a product of a single decision but a result of many bad decisions, unplanned growth, amateur solutions, greedy politicians, uncontrolled migration, overvalued land. But this does not make it ‘bad’, it is just a chaotic, uncontrollable layer of the city overlaid on top of the old one. A new city on top it with its new possibilities and stories.
What prompted the project?
To be honest, as I approached the end of my studies, I wanted to try a different method of designing and representation. Using my neighborhood as a setting, the aim was to create a new heterotopia universe based on opposition and criticism of Istanbul’s urban policies and different cultural inputs.
What references did you look at in terms of elevated infrastructures/layers within the fabric of the city?
The main references were the politic problems of the city. Nonetheless, I was mostly inspired by the Metabolists, and the pursue of megastructures. My aim was to create a retro futuristic, dystopian urban fabric and for this I looked to both Tokyo and Hong Kong. There were also various capitals I was inspired by when confronting the typology of r elevated infrastructures (without arguing the right or wrongs); like Chicago and New York or even Berlin with its pink pipes.
What was your work process in terms of project development, research and speculation?
The elements of the HighGround are rooted in the current and past political problems of the city that I’ve witnessed or researched. It is easy to observe the urban or sociological flaws of Istanbul and I had a strong interest in the political factors that shaped the city. The starting point of these different elements were the urban problems that I am interested in and also the ones I came across through my research. Afterwards, the project developed with speculation and exaggeration of these problems; by creating speculative, -not right- solutions that created more difficulties. As the project developed and these problematic solutions started to take shape; they created their own narrative. In this sense the process was very organic, however the whole story is based on real daily urban-politic experiences; represented and redesigned in a different reality.
What role did narrative play and how did this inform the development of the project itself?
My first intention was to create a comic series featuring a character who would have slowly explored the different elements of HighGround. If that would have worked, I would have employed a very different narrative style with the project. Within this final outcome, a narrative and different significant moments are illustrated. Narrative plays an important role, depicting what the images really are and what the story behind them is, after all, it is an urban fiction; the story will not ever be finished and I hope it will continue to expand with different stories to be told or more images to be created.
How important were the initial concept sketches? How were these crafted?
The initial sketches lost importance throughout the process as the project developed organically. They point to an intention but not the final outcome. The first sketches were elevated, mostly flying islands on top of the city; speculative outcomes of brutal land speculation. These were again rooted into the politics and criticism of the city’s urban policies. I believe they represent the main purpose of the project, yet they are not quite visible in the way they were drawn in the final outcome as the HighGround turned into a organic mega structure.
What defined the specific views through which you decide to reveal the project? How are these instances framed to talk about specific scenarios?
At the start, the intention was to represent an architectural story while not being tied to a conventional design or methods of representation as sections or plans. This is not a novelty, but something I was not accustomed to that I wanted to explore throughout my studies. During the process I worked in two ways; either I first designed the element and then attempted to represented it in a provoking way, or I designed a specific view and then designed different elements with the aim of exploring differentspeculative points. For example, the protests image was created as an image, to represent the tension between public and the police over the construction, on the other hand, the food hub was designed in a more conventional way and the view reveals its relation to surroundings.
What is your take on color, what defined the use/ lack of within the images?
As I said earlier, my first intention was to create a comic series; a character slowly exploring the different aspects of HighGround following a story. I was unable to achieve that during the process, yet the colors still reflect the comic bookish atmosphere I had in mind; lively but not too extreme. The colors are slightly neon, referring to retro-wave but also natural; trying to create a contemporary retro futuristic atmosphere. The lack of colors ‘surprisingly’ reflects the sadder story and unfortunate consequences of the universe, the dark roof terraces, long elevator queues, workers, dark streets or artificial sunlight.
What softwares/programs did you use?
I did all the modeling in SketchUp and used V-Ray for the renders, however most of the work was done in Photoshop.
What is for you the architects most important tool?
I believe that the architects most important tool is representation. We always have to present whatever we do, from initial studies to renderings and construction drawings or to napkin sketches. It is the most vital tool that reveals what we design; our core way of communication, but also a way that leads to new explorations and possibilities.