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The Habitus

March 28 - April 4, 2020, Istanbul Technical University  (ITU)– Turkey

“Habitus- to live, but also the home we carry with us- It protects and represents us as people and, together, as citizens. We live in an elastic world that perhaps suffers from the lack of an average view of things, our perspective of the world is always too particular or excessively broad, often victim of nostalgia for an idealized past, or hypnotized by an image of a reassuring or apocalyptic future (depending on our mood): rather than looking at the present with love and insight. The mirror of this era is our way of living in and consuming the world around us, which is perfectly expressed in the numerous domestic realities created throughout our live” (Molinari, 2016, p.13)


The concept -Habitus-  reaches back to Aristotle who used it as hexis, translated as state, implying the duration both space and time (Urmson, 1973; Malikail, 2003). According to Dorland's Medical Dictionary (2007), in medical culture, the term habitus refers to "1. posture or position of the body. 2. Physique; body build and constitution" (p. 826). While habitus is seen as a somewhat abstract concept to define, sociologists of culture and of the body have used it, however, to explore how social location (not only class, but also gender and ethnicity) is linked to cultural patterns and choices. Reintroduced in sociology and anthropology, habitus is defined as those aspects of culture that are attached to the body or routine practices of people, groups, societies and nations by Mauss (2006). It includes the entire learned habits, bodily skills, styles, tastes and other non-discursive knowledge. Initially used in the phrase "social habitus" by Norbert Elias (Mennell, 1989), habitus refers to the apparently durable patterns of thought, behavior (or practice) and preferences that people obtain and that link social structures (like class position) to action (like choices people make) as “the soil from which grow the personal characteristics through which an individual differs from other members of his society” (Elias 1991, 182). For Pierre Bourdieu, habitus refers to the actually durable patterns of thought, behavior (or practice) and taste that people acquire. These patterns link social structures (like class position) to action (like the choices people make or the beliefs they hold that are tied to particular cultural practices).

Bourdieu defines habitus as a:

“…system of practice-generating schemes which expresses systematically the necessity and freedom inherent in [a]…class condition and the difference [from other classes and fractions] constituting that condition” (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 55).

Habitus embodies culture and depicts social life in the patterns of behaviors, practices, and beliefs that people exhibit, perform, or have. Like culture itself, habitus evolves in interaction with its physical context and thus can take many forms in relation with the characteristics of its context.

The MATERIART Istanbul Workshop focuses on the question of relating the notion of habitus to the future within the context of Istanbul, and calls for design proposals for an intervention along the Golden Horn to support the creation and development of “a habitus of the future”. The Golden Horn (Haliç) is one of the waterways existent in the historic fabric of this metropolitan city, and a natural estuary that joins the Bosporus Strait at the point where it meets the Sea of Marmara. The waters of the Golden Horn help define the northern boundary of the peninsula of "Old Istanbul" (ancient Byzantium and Constantinople). The tip of the peninsula, and where the Golden Horn ends, is Sarayburnu, or Seraglio Point. This estuarial inlet geographically separates the historic center of Istanbul from the rest of the city, and forms a horn-shaped, sheltered harbor that has historically protected Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and other maritime trade ships for thousands of years. Its 8 km length stretches out to various historical neighborhoods and industrial, religious or leisurely landmarks on both sides all of which can be assumed today as an urban system defined by the waterfront, its physical morphology within the city, and proximity to both the historic peninsula and the modern city centers. 

Proposals are called for a design intervention/mediation in one of the selected regions along the Golden Horn that may develop an envisioned habitus of the future, particular to that place and its “inhabitants” at large, and also with regards to issues of new materiality in architecture. Based on critical analysis of the characteristics of the region/site past and present, its physical, cultural, and social structures, what would you propose, as architects, towards transforming it into a state that would afford people’s living in the ways of the envisioned future. 

The deadline for the registration has been extended to the 10th of January, 2020! (only for Tobb Etu students)

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