METU University Campus Buildings, Guzelyurt

METU Campus Building by Te-Ce architects

“Cyprus” may be one of the few words that we hear so much in the negotiation process between Turkey and of European Union. Even though the island became one of the most important political disputes between the EU, Turkey and Greece, life continues on both sides of the island. Northern Cyprus is known to be famous for its casinos and the sleeping potential of tourism by the people living in Turkey. Usually, Turkish people disapprove of the local people of northern Cyprus for not developing a self-reliant economy on their own resources. However, the Turkish Government still continues to support northern Cyprus both politically and financially. Due to recent developments in the political agenda, a new kind of settlement has been formed in northern Cyprus: Today, northern Cyprus hosts five large universities, with a total student population climbing up to 30,000. While education becomes an industry for northern Cyprus, the last addition will be made by Middle East Technical University (METU), which is one of the largest and oldest universities in Turkey located in Ankara.

After finishing the master plan of the new campus in the Guzelyurt district of Nothern Cyprus, the Urban Planning Department of Architecture School in METU organized a national one-phase architectural competition in 2003 to collect proposals for their administration, library and IT buildings. This complex, consisting of three major functions thought to be the heart of the campus as well, since it will draw most of the student and staff circulations in the campus. The location reserved for these buildings looking at the main square of the overall campus also enhances the demands for prestige that the administration is looking for. The competition requirements also demand the proposals to comply with the hot climate of the environment, with relatively low-rise buildings having minimum vertical circulations and maximum outdoor usage. Also, the long, extremely hot and humid summer season also forced the competitors to design the most energy-efficient buildings with minimum construction and maintenance requirements. The relatively strong northern winds were also one of the major design inputs for the design teams.

The winning scheme for these tough conditions came from a young team of architects located in Istanbul. The founders of the TeCe Architects, Tulin Hadi and Cem Ilhan, together with Zeynep Atas, the project architect in this competition, came out with a smart idea of using the wind as a basic design element in their proposals. While most of the other proposals of the competition preferred to enclose and emphasize the pre-given main square and the promenade with their proposed buildings, TeCe Architects decided to design a large opening to the valley at the north. This gave the promenade and the main square a direction which would attract the people under the large canopy and then distribute them to the surrounding library and IT buildings.

Another significant decision was to put a viewing deck at the northern border of the lot, which also transformed the overall square into a large balcony looking at the valley. The circulation areas are stacked on the southern parts of the buildings even though this might be considered as the front façade when the courtyard is taken into account. But this decision makes the building profit from the passive climate controls and keeps the maintenance and operating costs to a minimum level.

The horizontal low-rise building interiors are designed to have as much as interflowing multi-level spaces to overcome the monotony. The angular placement of the library also is a similar approach to creating more dynamic outdoor spaces between buildings. It is apparent that the large canopy which separates the administration building and the IT building will be an attractive outdoor space for students and staff.

The hard climate conditions and the financial limitations for construction and operation forced competitors to come up with modest solutions and TeCe Architects was successful in coming out within these restraints with smart simple manoeuvres.

Published in A10 Magazine, Issue 7, 2006