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Bigadiç Municipality Center

Location: Bigadiç, Balıkesir, Turkey
Project Team: Osman Ural, Ayşegül Ural

Public buildings should be inherently part of our urban life as it provides essential sociocultural activities that activates a community to come together and thrive. Unfortunately, a hypocrisy exists within it’s structure as governmental services tend to exist in a labyrinth of isolated offices which house a system of bureaucratic functions. The restricted movement, lack of transparency, and a general deficiency of public functions in these buildings result in the community not connecting or identifying with them. In order to reverse this trend, the design of public buildings first priority should be placemaking. The philosopher Martin Heidegger (1958) argues that the goal of architecture should be primarily to create human experience, instead of just designing a purely functional building. Then a designed object transcends its functional purpose, it can be said it has a “soul.”  

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When looking at the project site, Bedriye Asımgil writes in her paper Evaluation of a Sustainable Bigadiç Civil Architecture and its Landscape: Architectural Typology and Building Physics that the village of Bigadiç exhibits an inherent sustainable structure due to its rural location, combined with the settlement’s physical response to its surrounding  mountainous topography and climate of the area. This structure was achieved by primarily aligning the main streets within Bigadiç towards the prevailing winds of the area at an angle of around 20 to 30 degrees.

The allows the form of the urban fabric to contribute to the sustainability of the town by orienting facades along the east to west direction so the buildings can collect heat from the sun and also avoid putting shade upon other buildings surrounding it. The site plan of the new project is a result of these orientation parametrics. The proposal is therefore a set of detached and compact blocks revolving around a central courtyard framed by social and cultural functions. This pubic square provides a comfortable place in which people can cool down in the summer months. Importance is also given to the harmony of the blocks with their natural environment by injecting vegetation between and around them - a relationship that is exhibited throughout the surrounding area of Bigadiç. The detached blocks also allow for a free flow of circulation between them as people visit the new municipality building, in turn establishing connections with the surrounding context.

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Another influencing factor in the form of the project are the general typologies of buildings in the region. Generally, the urban fabric of Bigadiç consists of 2-3 story buildings that follow basic principles of vernacular Turkish housing language. These typologies are explored in an article written by Ömer Erem and M. Selen Abbasoğlu Ermiyagil (2016) called Adapted Design Generation for Turkish Vernacular Housing Grammar. They explain that houses in the rural Anatolian regions of Balıkesir implement a spatial organization that places rooms centered around a hall called a "Sofa," which acts as a transition space between private and public life. Their research provides villagers a tool to design buildings that are contemporary yet is relevant to their rural contexts. The design proposal for the new municipality building of Bigadiç uses this approach and fuses it with the functional necessities of contemporary public building life.

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The building envelope of the proposal uses a mix of locally sourced materials, such as white stone from Işıklar, a village 4.5 km away from the building site. The thick and lightly colored stone walls allow for heat storage during the day in winter, and provides protection from solar radiation during the summer months (Asımgil, 2013). The proposal also uses timber framing in it’s structure, a renewable resource that is used in other buildings throughout the region. 

The use of these materials in this project will significantly reduce the transportation costs and carbon footprint of the construction of the building. The design proposal also references the pitched and tiled roofs in the region. Using pitched roofs help with dealing with the weather conditions of the area, and also provide better air circulation throughout the building (Asımgil, 2013). In addition to this, openings at the peak of the pitched roofs were implemented to bring more light into important spaces of the building. 

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In a final act of placemaking in this conceptual design, the building is made more open to the public by lifting the stone block off the ground floor. Social functions such as restaurants and exhibition spaces are introduced to increase the free flow of public interaction around the building.  The central cultural square in the project is also sunken to provide a spatial element that is protected from the environmental elements. The sunken courtyard also acts as a gathering place which is activated by the ateliers and public functions that surround it. .

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Contemporary public buildings in Turkey exist in a perpetual crisis of identity that generally exist between two perceptions of architectural reality. One is a reality in which designed buildings act as an inwardly focused structure that primarily exists within itself, whose language is defined by a globalized and cosmopolitan terminology. 

The other reality is an approach that implements revivalist styles that associates it’s architecture with Turkey’s inherited historical past. This polarity in the expression of architecture between traditionalist and international design approaches are a direct result from the competing modern geopolitical identities and ideologies of the country. 

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