05_Merve Unsal

Merve Unsal

On (and Through) the Ventilation Shafts

Ventilation shafts of the apartment buildings in Turkey could be literally translated as “voids of the buildings.” Or rather, I was trying to figure out why I wanted to translate the word boşluk — as “void”. Since, derived from the word boş, it could be also translated as “emptiness”, or just “space”. So “an empty space” would be the most literal translation of boşluk to English. 

My translating impulse might have had something to do with the acoustics that drew me to this particular architectural space. And the conversations that are taking place in its void, as voices and sounds relayed through the building, are traveling down the shaft through the different floors, creating a dialogue, which appears to almost permanently hang in the air. Sentences latch on to each other; one neighbor’s question about a dinner, complements another’s gossipy comment, producing a relationships of animosity, hospitality, and camaraderie where there might be none. 

This abstraction, however, is intimate and site-specific. The ventilation shaft carries odors of food, emotional baggage, and sounds of raindrops. If you are a little voyeuristic, and commit to listening to your neighbors, over time, you could figure out what voice belongs to which floor, by establishing distance. As you listen, you might begin to notice the different strategies your neighbors choose, for relating to this semi-public space in the architectural void. 

the ventilation shaft   → 

Most of the images pulled up by my search engine were of horrendous things that had happened, or had been found in the shafts. That makes sense. A ventilation shaft is an opening, a domestic gateway and not-quite-facade, where what is hidden cannot remain so for long. I determined the image I use here was the least fraught I could use: a sacred tomb in the city of Bursa. The tomb belongs to the local folk poet. Not wanting to move the tomb, the architects had built around it. You can visit it through a narrow corridor that runs through the building.