Atmospheres of Discussion, The Workshop: Architecture of Democracy & Learning from Things


Atmosphere of Discussion, 25-26 Feb, ITU Faculty of Architecture

Theory & Background

The guiding theory alongside the critical issues and the methodology on which the workshop was based, is mainly situated around the book “Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (MIT Press, 2005)” by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, who also put on an exhibition with the same title. I have been introduced to the subject of the “Thing-Place”, the space offered by the presence of ‘things’, personally by David Turnbull, my advising professor at The Cooper Union back in 2010.  What David was offering by his invitation of, to and through the “things” was to foster a spatial discussion ground for our interests, and preferably for our prospective thesis subjects which were to be represented by the objects and bits that we’ve brought into the Reading Room on 7th floor of The Foundation Building. All the objects on the table, standing for various interests, matters and concerns, were assembled over a grid, talked over, moved around and through the discussions, they’ve constituted wider meanings with wider atmospheres of knowledge, of ideas and of debate. Taking up a similar methodology of the live interplay of objects and gathering around them, and going back to the writings of Latour, Heidegger and to the offerings of Etymology, I’ve also induced to foster a fresh ‘Atmosphere of Discussion’. And besides, rather than a hermetic production period and somewhat a classic product-oriented workshop thing going on for the weekend, I was more interested in the process itself and in the very simple yet neglected acts of gathering together, discussing and exclusively in the consumption and subsequent potentials of Chinese Food.(1) The workshop, “AoD” took place as a part of workshop series organized by the Architecture Club of ITU last February.


Assembly #2, The Table: The Thing-Place or an assembly of micro Thing-Places.

For reference, Latour’s diagnosis was about the current problematic state of representation that is accommodated and being operated in our democracy. He asserts that, despite the binary framework of the representational structure (in short, the representation of people and of matters), all the attention had been employed over the procedure and the form of representation of people (the assemblies, tables, councils, election of representatives: Bringing individuals around a matter) while neglecting the ‘things’ to be represented as well as their form of representation; disregarding how to represent matters.(2) As a ‘successful failure’ of such disregard, the example of Colin Powel’s presentation on the Iraqi Mass Destruction Weapons in 2003, shown in front of a perfectly shaped U-Table in UN with all the World’s perfectly elected representatives, clearly exhibits how ‘solid intelligence’ and shiny ‘indisputable’ facts are perfectly able to disappoint us.(3) Right at this point, talking about Dingpolitik, Latour offers a new insight into democracy and into objectivity, where, rather than matters-of-fact, we may rely on the matters-of-concern for an active dispute and intellectual collectivity.(4) In short, it is an offer to focus on the ‘things’ to be discussed, rather than just to the mere act of gathering.

Going back to the Etymology, the origins of the English word Thing comes from  Ding and Ting, which are used to indicate “a certain type of archaic assembly” in history and presently being used by the Nordic and Saxon nations.(5) What appears is that the act and the place of gathering and the matter (Thing) to gather around is very much bound together, disclosing the links between the activity, the space and the language, rooted in the very culture of society. All this, as a fresh approach into objectivity and into our association with the objects, proposes an active and more actual democracy at an instant where, as Latour asserts, the objects are becoming Things. And because Things divide us, they also do bring us together, exactly around them.(6)

An Assembly made by Gendarme & A Crime Scene Bag; paths to the ‘big picture’


The debris of Shuttle Columbia, assembled over a grid in Kennedy Space Center & A number tagging of bullets at a crime scene; From Objects to Things : the re-understanding

As David once referred, an object-based game played in Bauhaus School and the objects brought by Charlotte Perriand in her office at the Rue De Serves every week show that the creative discussion in architecture and other intellectual disciplines can be situated at and around the objects, around the Things. Several key images were provided to the participants during the introduction, (an assembly of weapons, documents and tools organized by Gendarme after they caught a terrorist organization, the number-tagging of each bullet at their exact location at a crime scene and the crime scene bags with full of detailed information printed on them) is disclosing a moment where the objects mean and indicate much more than their mere existence, assembling a bigger picture so to say, and are more complicated, more blurry, more local and deeper than we know.(7) A supporting image, also used by Latour for the exact moment where objects are turning into things and constructing a reality that is wider, is the ‘exploded view’ of the shuttle Columbia. Here, the engineers are trying to understand what might have caused the explosion of the shuttle by placing its debris over a huge grid designed inside Kennedy Space Center in Florida, reassembling the pieces to re-understand such a complex one-piece object.

The Grid, The Chinese Lunch & Assembly #1


– The Making of The Grid; designing the spatial ground of a discussion

The AoD

So, in Atmospheres of Discussion, we attempt to assemble a new gathering around the objects that represent our concerns and interests as architects, to turn those objects into Things and to investigate further matters and relationships that might occur from their collective assembly, over and around a real topological ground for dispute. During a two-day agenda of assemblies, breaks and re-assemblies as in parliamentary rituals, the individual objects are constantly moved across the table through ‘correlational proximities’, based on what they represent and how the participants (the representatives/the Tingmen) associate with them, while generating new networks of information, new concepts, links and fresh grounds for further debate. The table, probably the most conventional and contemporary figure and ground to discuss things, with the accompanying Grid are rescaled for a larger assembly (the Great Assembly) that invites a wider audience into the discussion, as an exhibition inside the Faculty of Architecture Building. The exhibition provides all the collateral material and references came up and discussed during the meetings (books, texts, movies, news…), making all the process and the debate somewhat tangible; the structure and the very substance of the desired ‘actual democracy’. Concurrently investigating the architecture of a gathering and that of the discussion (Thing-Place) and the spatiality of multiple matters (Things) and of Democracy in a way, Atmospheres of Discussion is an open call for all the architects to “Go Back To Things!” (8)

The Map of Matters-of-Concerns (19 Things & 10 Thing-Places): The Spatiality of a Discussion

The Exhibition at the Hall 127, Taskisla Campus Building: The Great Assembly

The Chinese Lunch & The Great Assembly

The Chinese Lunch & The Great Assembly

More below, you can find several examples of ‘Assembly Reports’ of the concepts discussed during the sessions and ‘located’ over the grid (see the map), produced by micro-assemblies of several Things (numbered on the map, in the exhibition & over the text), the fresh Thing-Places on the table. Showcased with the reference material, definitions of these fuzzy atmospheres are in Turkish. Also, for the information in Turkish about the workshop and for more photos, please check out the news report appeared on Arkitera (, a widely known architectural e-journal.

Glass City by Paul Auster (17), Broken Pocket Watch (10), Versatil Pencil belongs to Selin’s Father (08), Eurocall Phone Card (07)


Oturumlar boyunca Ali’ye ait gizli bir gözcü ve sakladığı bir potansiyel bir obje ve meseleler bütünü olan Cam Kent kitabi, New York’ta geçmesi, Auster’in karakter çakışmaları ve iç geçişleri ve karakterin takip ettiği (ve belki sonra kendisi, kendi içindeki ve içindeki ötekisi haline geldiği) kişinin yoldan objeler topluyor olması denkliği ile güçlü bir hikaye ve karakter tahlili isteği doğuruyor. Avrupa’ya ait telefon kartı da, hikayenin başlamasına sebep olan ve dışarıdan gelen(bu örnekte Avrupa) aramayla çakışıyor. Auster ve oturum öncesi sunumlardaki ‘kanıt toplama’ örnekleri, bizleri kriminal bir merak ve bir araya getirme çabasına (A Criminal Assembly) itiyor.

Bulunan objelere ek olarak, etimolojik ve dilbilim tartışmalarına konu olan ‘kırık bir şemsiyenin artık ‘şemsiye’ diye adlandırılmasına ait sorgu, gene çalışmayan bir Pelin’in getirdiği kırık Prada gözlüğü bu gruba yakın tutuyor. Gene ayni kitapta, takip edilen kişinin çizdiği rotaları kaydeden karakter, zamansız bir hikaye / aktivite sahnesi olarak New York’un formunu yeniden de çizmiş oluyor. Tüm tartışma için tasarladığımız grid ise, belki de en iyi yasadığı kent olarak gene New York ile çakışmış oluyor.

Önceleri sadece ‘zamansızlık’ sebebiyle, Avrupa Kıtası’na göre yerleşimde kendine teorik ve his olarak zamansız olan kutuplarda yer bulan Cansu’nun getirdiği cep saati, kişisel değeri sebebiyle bu hikayenin kurgusuna New York’ta katılıyor. Ayrıca, bozulmuş olması haricinde, kişiye ait zamanı ve bu cağın çok konuşulur meselesi olan ‘kişisel zamanı’ da yeniden anlatıyor gibi: özelleşmiş bir saat, bir iç cepten el ile çıkartılıyor ve kişinin istediği zamanda kullanılıyor: Evrensel olana (zaman) kişisel bir tavır ! ‘Zaman-tutan’ (the Time Keeper) deyişi ise, elinde ve kapaklı bir saati tutmak metaforu ile biz meclis üyeleri için anlaşılabilir bir hale geliyor.

References: NY Times – Manhattan’s Rectangular Street Grid Turns 200

Coded Cover Bag (12), GQ Turkey Issue #1 (09) 


Arkasında etiketlenmiş ürün “kodu” ile dünyanın her yerinde aynı şekil, renk, malzeme özelliklerini anlatıyor. İki katmandan oluşmasının getirdiği durum üretim sürecine ait bir iz de sağlayıp, malzeme ile kodunun fiziksel olarak da ayrıldığı bir an yaratıyor. Bu materyal kullanıldıktan, yani yapışkan kağıdından ayrıldıktan sonra geriye; sadece kodun yazdığı bir ‘non-object’ kağıt bırakıyor. Bu bir Non ve All-Place parçası olurken, materyal ise bizler için gridin öbür ucundaki Çin’e gidiyor.

Erenalp’in ilkleri almaya olan ilgisi sebebiyle masaya yerleştirdiği dergi, “İlk” ve “Türkiye” kelimelerinin de betimlediği üzere, global olanın globalliği üzerinden lokal değer yatırma çabasını gösteriyor (bkz. HSBC Reklamları: Dünyanın ‘Yerel’ Bankası). Yani aslında her yerde (ALL-PLACES) veya hiçbir yerde bir değer oluyor. Belki ilerleyen oturumlarda (in further assemblies) derginin içeriğindeki sınırlandırılmış ‘lokallik’ sebebiyle bazı yerlere aitleşebilir (bu örnekte Türkiye) yada aslında gene aynı değer yaratma yöntemini doğrulayacağı için herhangi bir yere ait olamayabilir.

References: Excerpts from Non Places: Introduction to an anthropology of Supermodernity by Marc Auge (1995), pp. 75-115

A 75-Min Transport Ticket from Barcelona (04)


EVENT-PLACE #1’e ek olarak, aynı ‘sınırlandırılmış imkan’ (limited access/ opportunity) konusu Barcelona’daki bilet ile tekrarlanıyor. Burada, oturumun bir üretimi ve merakı olarak belli bir sürede, tanımlanan ulaşım araçları ile gidilebilecek yerlerin aslında sınırlı ve bu sebeple görünür olduğu üzere bir harita oluşturuluyor. Bu haritaya fikir olarak eşlik eden, hali hazır “imkan – sınır” durumunu ücret-uzaklık ile görünür hale getiren Air New Zeland web sitesi oluyor.

References: Air New Zeland Web Sitesi – How Far I Can Go ?

1 A keen interest was directed on the possible accompanying acts during a discussion, on the consumption of particular types of food. As very often seen in tv shows and various movies, the Chinese Food is a classic meal, usually ordered as delivery or take-out, somehow introducing the act of dining as a side scenery into the plot where people can talk and continue their discussion while eating. For the case of workshops and thus for the agenda of such  designated short-period activities, I wanted to include a similar ‘plot’ for the first day where, in the first place, participants needed to talk and meet each other. And for a workshop essentially based on pure discussion, the preliminary assembly has required such informal setting around the table while being on track with the agenda of the workshop (it is listed on the program as “The Chinese Lunch”). The idea was to have a meal altogether, as a team or a group, and still can discuss things in between, as a particular activity designated in the “workshop plot”. I think all the participants have enjoyed the food and this accompanying event being a part of the process. PS. I can truly recommend Sushi-Co for such occasions, yummy good bites.

2 See in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel, Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (MIT Press, 2005), p. 16.

3 Latour and Weibel, Making Things Public, p. 18.

4 Latour and Weibel, Making Things Public, p. 19.

5, 6 “Thus, long before designating an object thrown out of the political sphere and standing there objectively and independently, the ‘Ding’ or Thing has for many centuries meant the issue that brings people together ‘because’ it divides them.” – See in Latour and Weibel, Making Things Public, p. 22. For more reference, as provided in the bottom of the same page, do check out Oxford Dictionary for the origins of word Ding (in Old English and Germanic) where the meanings of ‘meeting’ – ‘concern’ and ‘matter’ are present alongside the Ding or Ting being the ‘place’ of such meetings. And for the offerings of a critical etymology, refer to Martin Heidegger in his “What is a thing?, trans. W.B. Barton, Jr., Vera Deutsch, Regnery, Chicago, 1968.”

7  Corresponding with the shift from matters of fact to matters of concern, these objects become more than what they offer at pure objectivity, offering a lot more and deeper patterns of affiliation and understanding: “For too long, objects have been wrongly portrayed as matters-of-fact. This is unfair to them, unfair to science, unfair to objectivity, unfair to experience. They are much more interesting, variegated, uncertain, complicated, far reaching, heterogeneous, risky, complicated, local, material and networky than the pathetic version offered for too long by philosophers…”Facts are facts’ ? Yes, but they are also a lot of other things ‘in addition’.” – See in Latour and Weibel, Making Things Public, pp. 19-20. Also do see, as one of the key references also included in Making Things Public in Chapter 5, Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Toward a History of Epistemic Thing. Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube, Standford University Press, Stanford, CA, 1997.

8 Re-utilizing the slogan for a new democracy offered in Latour and Weibel, Making Things Public, p. 23 : “If the ‘Ding’ designates both those who assemble because they are concerned as well as what causes their concerns and divisions, it should become the center of our attention: Back to Things!”  – for a new form of dispute with multiple participants and with multiple interests in ‘Things’, related or not to Architecture which, as well, happened to be a more complicated and ‘networky’ discipline or an intellectual production than it was before. So going around and into ‘many’ Things over a single table, we do think, discuss and learn more from one other’s concern and from their micro-assemblies which offer new links and  fresh concepts of multitude (many thing-places) with possible links to architecture and further research, while keeping a critical occupation inside the discipline, investigating the ‘architecture’ of all this assembly, literally ‘drawing’ the essentials of democracy.

About intersections23rdn5th

Architect, Designer and Researcher - based in Istanbul and New York City.

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