Q: Where did you grow up? What was your favorite thing about growing up there?
Burak: I grew up Izmir Turkey, a little port town on the west coast of Turkey. My favorite thing was playing hide and seek in the neighborhood... we could still play on the street during summer afternoons and our parents didn’t have to worry. Izmir wraps around the bay so getting around the city you take a ferry to get to downtown, that was also one of my favorite things to do in the city.
Q: Who was your most influential teacher/mentor? Why?
Burak: I am an architect and an architectural historian so I have two. First architect Christ Rischer Junior, who was the main important professor at Mississippi State where I got my undergraduate degree. Second is Dell Upton (@ UVA) for history. Both of them were independent thinkers and they read a lot. That is something that is important for us as architects, don’t let go of the reading! We have to do a lot but reading allows us to engage and not get stuck at our desks, and that independent thinking gave them a vision to way to look at things in a new and penetrating way. Dell knew what I was doing with my dissertation long before I did!
Q: If you could take your history students to see one work of historical architecture, what would it be? What about one work of modern architecture?
Burak: Historical architecture would be the grand bazaar, or grand market in Istanbul, it’s the quintessential non object space, you know when you are entering it, its like the skin of the city.
Modern building would be the Whitney Museum of American Art In New York because of its connection to the city. It creates this unique space between the building and city at the sidewalk; you enter the building through a bridge, and there is a café sunken in the space between the sidewalk and building and creates this wonderful urban zone. It has a great relationship; it acknowledges that there needs to be something between the building and the city.
Q: If you could sit in on a class this semester, which would it be?
Burak: I still need to get to know more about the classes, but at the new faculty meeting I met Maria Pramaggiore and she teaches film classes in the English department, and I would love to take some of her classes.
Q. How do you take your coffee?
Burak: On an every day basis I will end up drinking anything that resembles coffee, but it you are asking what the ideal cup of coffee is it would have to be Turkish coffee Az Sekerli (which means little sugar) and a cup of water.
Q: Did you take advantage of office hours when you were an undergrad?
Burak: I didn’t know they existed! I think it’s a missed opportunity. I have office hours now because I think its important to make time so that students know when you are available.
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing once you finish and defend your dissertation?
Burak: SO many things! One thing is that I won’t have to say "I’m going to finish it on such-and-such a date" - I’ll be done. I also used to go on long runs on weekends so I look forward to using those runs to get to know Raleigh - it’s a great way to see new things in a town.
Q: As you see it, what is history’s role in the practice of architecture today?
Burak: I think, this is what I try and do in my class, we have to talk about architecture and provide the methodologies for students to be able to think of architecture as a social and economic product, so that when we make buildings or an intervention on a site we can engage those parts of the site, and think about how we engage the larger part of the world. This allows us to engage our profession as a citizen, how things actually exist in the built environment; laws and zoning, for when we design specific types of buildings, methods that allow us to engage and analyze architecture as a social product.
Q: What’s your favorite non-architecture book?
Burak: It's been a while since I have had time to develop those favorites! I love reading the New Yorker, any type of serious newspaper, but in terms of short fiction, Paul Bowles was a favorite. He was a self inflicted exile, lived in Morocco, a new Yorker in Morocco. Musician/composer turned writer. He has great short stories that I really like, The Sheltering Sky comes to mind.
Thank you so much, Professor Erdim!