Questioning endurance through the interruptions on urban memory: Konak SSK Blocks

Karakaş B., Canaran D., Yılmaz E.

European Architectural History Network Thematic Conference: Architecture and Endurance, Ankara, Turkey, 30 September - 02 October 2021, pp.84-85

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Ankara
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.84-85
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Konak Square has been evolved for centuries and reached today’s spatial configuration, especially with surrounding administrative, institutional, cultural, and commercial structures obtained by architectural competitions between the 1950s and 1970s. SSK Blocks is one of these competition sites adjacent to Konak Square, where historical Yellow Barracks were located. Yellow Barracks were built in the 19th century to reinforce the administrative characteristics of Konak Square, representing the “westernization” attempts of the Ottoman Empire after Tanzimat, which was demolished in 1955.. Due to controversies surrounding the demolition, the site remained empty for two decades until an architectural competition was held in 1966. The winning entry, SSK Blocks, by Orhan Dinç was completed in 1976. SSK blocks as a multi-purpose complex covering commercial, cultural, and business activities reflected the period’s modern understanding. The permeability of the design builds a relationship between the historical bazaar and the square by open terraces, courtyards, and passages. In October 2020, a devastating earthquake in İzmir damaged several buildings around Konak Square, the city’s historical and administrative center, and generated a debate in terms of the durability of these buildings. The local government’s declaration of demolishing SSK Blocks and other governmental buildings was criticized severely by NGOs in terms of city’s collective memory. Konak district with historical Kemeraltı Bazaar is a ‘palimpsest’ with traces of memories from different periods, including modern cultural heritage. Renewal of the buildings in this multi-layered urban patch every half a century creates ruptures in city’s collective memory. Therefore, this paper investigates the spatial features of SSK Blocks providing permanence in the city, the endurance of modern architecture through daily life practices, and its possible resistances in urban space. To probe collective memory and its resistance brought by the building complex with material culture and daily rhythms of the public, oral history research was conducted with actors experiencing SSK Blocks. Consequently, the study contributes to the memory of everyday life of a modern building that could be resistant to the pace of change and inquires whether SSK Blocks can break the cycle of demolitions contrary to Yellow Barracks.