Planning Manuals as Tools for Modernization and Nation Building: The circulation of ideas through German-speaking architects and urban planners in Turkey, 1923-1950

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


In the early 20th century, the modern movement triggered the international circulation of knowledge through architects and urban planners. One mode of this dissemination was the invitation of French- and German-speaking architects and urban planners to build modern cities in foreign countries. A notable example was the case of Turkey. Between 1923 and 1950, a number of German-speaking architects and urban planners had considerable impact on the country’s built environment. During this period, German building manuals became tools for the dissemination of architectural ideas and consequently played a crucial role in modernization of the Turkish nation, founded in 1923. This paper investigates the function of the building manual in the process of nation building in the early republican period in Turkey. Through an analysis of key publications, including Camillo Sitte’s Der Städte-Bau nach seinen künstlerischen Grundsätzen; Reinhard Baumeister’s “Stadt-Erweiterungen in technischer, baupolizeilicher und wirthschaftlicher Beziehung”, Theodor Fischer’s Sechs Vorträge über Stadtbaukunst, the paper offers an analysis of the key figures and ideas involved in this process, and the relationship between architectural and political ideals that emerged through the manuals.
The new Turkish Republic sought to establish itself as a modern nation that was distanced from the Ottoman Empire. The invitation of foreign experts to advise on the design and planning of Turkish cities was part of this modernization process: for example, Carl Christoph Lörcher was assigned to work on Ankara’s plan in 1924, Herman Jansen’s plan for Ankara came into effect in 1928. In addition to working directly with the government, these practitioners were also involved in the development of the Turkish architectural education system. Ernst Egli, for example, was assigned as a professor to Istanbul Fine Arts University in order to reshape the architecture programme. The influence of German architects continued during the Second World War. When the Nazis took power in 1933, a number of German professors began to work at the Turkish universities. German speaking professors also worked as practicing architects, such as Clemens Holzmeister, Martin Wagner, Hans Poelzig, Bruno Taut, Paul Bonatz, etc. These figures introduced key European ideas, including the Siedlung and the “Garden City”, in written and built form which subsequently influenced the production of Turkish manuals, and thus influenced the construction of the modern nation.
The circulation of the ideas during this construction has been seen in several directions. The architects and urban planners were invited by the government, so that they carried their knowledge which is under influence of Sitte, Baumeister, Howard etc. Sitte’s 1889 dated book Der Städtebau nach seinen Künstlerischen Grundsätzen was translated in Turkish by Celal Esat Arseven in 1926; Kemali Soylemezoglu translated the lectures of Theodor Fischer Sechs Vorträge über Stadtbaukunst (1919) in 1941, 1942 and 1945 in the Turkish magazine called “Arkitekt”.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventEAHN 2017 Conference "The Tools of the Architect" - Delft and Rotterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 22 Nov 201724 Nov 2017


ConferenceEAHN 2017 Conference "The Tools of the Architect"
CityDelft and Rotterdam
Internet address


  • planning manuals
  • modernisation
  • Turkey


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