Published Nov 12, 2020
The concept “archi-travel” indicates the architect’s journey which is considered as a significant experiential activity. It is interpreted by the word architect, which is composed of two Greek words archos and tekton signifying respectively “chief” and “builder” (Younés, 1999: 71). The prefix “archi-,” meaning “primary” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary), reinforces the architect’s “supreme” task of creating (Younés, 1999: 71). The word travel means making a journey, which corresponds to “one’s path in life” (Online Etymology Dictionary). The origin of the word travel comes from a deed of labor, thus traveling is to be seen as a comprehensive activity with the purpose of improving skills for generating new ideas and practicing architecture. In that sense, travel becomes an instrument for the architect to find his/her own path for self-cultivation.
Consequently, the combination of archi- and travel arouses an idea with double meaning. Firstly, archi-travel pictures the primary path of the architect’s professional journey; secondly, it delineates singular travels, which are carried out along this main path to complement each other and collectively constitute the entire travel experience of an architect. The notion of archi-travel bears both the two separate levels of the architect’s self-formation and self-cultivation processes.
As Steen Eiler Rasmussen pointed out, “it is impossible to explain precisely what it [architecture] is – its limits are by no means well-defined”, hence “it must be experienced” (Rasmussen, 1974: 9). That means that boundaries of architecture, both as meaning and perceived reality, are outlined dissimilarly by diverse people. Rasmussen, by underlying the fact that architectural space surrounds people’s lives with the essential purpose of utility, claims architecture finds its true meaning when seen in human’s eye level; as only then it becomes a space to live in (Rasmussen, 1974: 10). Architecture cannot be comprehended fully without experiencing from human scale; otherwise, it is regarded solely as a two-dimensional visual composition ignoring its multi-dimensionality.
In the field of architecture, the Grand Tour of the seventeenth century can be seen as the starting point of the tradition of educational traveling (Acar, 2013: 76). Grand Tour required an educative agenda with an arranged itinerary to Italy, where architecture students both learn for themselves and transfer knowledge to their country from Italian architecture (Brainard et.al. 2008). Traganou (2009: 5) argued that architectural travel is a continuation of an “intellectual tradition that links traveling epistemologically to the production of knowledge.” By leading to knowledge production, as a study tour, travel practice can be considered as an essential field on which theoretical knowledge and practical experience converge. The theory is enlivened by the practice of travel, which gives rise to gaining new perspectives and producing new ideas on architectural production.
Correspondingly, travel learning happens to be an idiosyncratic self-cultivation process determined by the architect, contributing to the construction and transformation of architectural knowledge via enduring self-education. An architect adapts what Abbeele (1992: xv) depicted as “the motif of the voyage” involving “progress”, “the quest for knowledge”, “self-awareness”, “salvation” and employs these various patterns in order to arrive at a renewed and individualized comprehension.
Architect avails from travel for transforming unfamiliar to familiar (Hultzsch, 2014: 54). Since each and every travel arises in a unique time and a unique place, travelers always acquire new experiences by meeting the unusual. When this special experience is internalized it becomes a familiar accumulation of information. However, this constructed knowledge is subject to constant transformation; because travel is, as Susan Sontag (2017) emphasizes an unending process. Accordingly, the architect’s journey can be regarded as an endless pursuit of knowledge formed by the instant awareness gained through the practice of travel. Traveling, by means of actual/de facto experience, it provides, leads the architect to discover individual and unique ways of accumulating, constructing, and transforming (architectural) knowledge. Therefore, travel turns out to be a creative process.
Rasmussen identifies seeing as a creative activity of the spectator; who re-creates his perception of the things seen in order to integrate them into a full image. According to Rasmussen (1974: 36), the re-creation of the observed reality into intimate and comprehensible output is possible with finding something familiar in that reality. However, it should be taken into consideration that “to create” means “to bring into existence” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary); true creation is performed out of nothing over the blankness. Namely, creation is possible by confrontation with new or unknown, which evokes a new way of thinking; and by revealing the nonexistent with a new definition. Confrontation with the new is actualized through traveling; as a result, new architectural definitions and re-definitions are put forth over travel experience.
Hence, archi-travel becomes a locus for the architect providing freedom of immediate and utter experience to learn how to see, observe, discover, comprehend, interpret, define and re-define what is encountered; thereby, to cultivate novel/fresh ways of architectural production. The architect makes use of archi-traveling for finding creative learning methods so as to achieve distinctive theoretical and practical architectural production.
*The research on the relation of travel and architecture is based on the author’s PhD dissertation which has not yet been finalized in the Department of Architecture at Gazi University under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Esin Boyacıoğlu and under the co-supervision of Prof. Dr. T. Elvan Altan.
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Hultzsch, Anne (2014). Architecture, Travellers and Writers: Constructing Histories of Perception 1640-1950, London, UK: Maney Publishing.
Rasmussen, Steen Eiler. (1974) Experiencing Architecture, USA: MIT Press.
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Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/
Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/