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Off the beaten track: SO? Architecture and Ideas, Turkey

A chicken coop in Erzincan, Turkey, is among a plethora of diverse projects by SO? Architecture and Ideas addressing a return to the rural

SO? Architecture and Ideas have been shortlisted for the AR Emerging Architecture awards 2019. View the shortlist here

Should there be a difference in the level of research or technical rigour applied to a chicken coop and to a concept for disaster relief housing? For Istanbul-based studio SO?, the question has perhaps never arisen; since 2007 co-founders Oral Göktaş and Sevince Bayrak have prided themselves on creating both the ‘fun and meaningful’ with equal enthusiasm.

Described as a research-based practice, SO? draw on sociology, literature, history and engineering when approaching a diverse range of projects. Bayrak and Göktaş’s influences are revealing: Henry Thoreau, author of Walden, which explores ideas of a ‘simple life’ and self-reliance, manufacturing obsessive Jean Prouvé, Buckminster Fuller and Yona Friedman. This meeting of a technological view of architecture and the idea of going ‘back to nature’ may seem contradictory, but was crystallised in the studio’s recent House of Chickens. Forming part of the Palanga Art and Architecture Farm in Erzincan, the structure will play a role in a masterplan commissioned by artist Kutluğ Ataman to revitalise a neglected site.

‘SO?’s solution of a long, thin coop perched on a timber frame blends lowtech methods and materials with more high-tech thinking’

SO?’s solution of a long, thin coop perched on a timber frame blends low-tech methods and materials with more high-tech thinking in the form of removable modules that can be expanded as the farm grows. Incorporating details such as angled roosting bars comfortable for a chicken’s claws and hatches to facilitate egg collection, the coop is indented to generate a reciprocity not only between animals and humans, but also architecture and nature.

This is an ongoing concern for the architects, who claim that returning to the rural is ‘becoming a way of life that people would prefer instead of a never-ending struggle in a chaotic urban environment’. Whether it is physically translating this idea into the off-grid Cabin on the Border or creating reflections of the Bosporus in the mirrored installation Sky Spotting Stop outside the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, the natural world is central to SO?’s approach. It is also a preoccupation that has driven some of the studio’s more immediate projects, such as the Fold&Float system. This solution turns to the sea as a site for post-earthquake disaster relief housing, due to the rapid development of public spaces once designated for this purpose in Istanbul.

So architecture and ideas drawings

So architecture and ideas drawings

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These 24m² units can be quickly deployed by folding out a lightweight steel structure and attaching it to a concrete pontoon, to which the furniture is already fixed in place; an image of one of these being pulled by a tugboat is on display at London’s Royal Academy of Arts exhibition What is Radical Today? (until 7 Nov 2019). While they put it modestly, the duo seem keen to shake things up: ‘we just hope we can walk on tracks that have not been beaten before’.

This piece is featured in the AR November issue on the Foreign + Emerging Architecture – click here to purchase your copy today

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