Learning from traditional miniature painting and from recent studies on their modern and creative applications, the purpose of this paper is to identify the key qualifications of miniature and possible ways for using miniature in urban design studios. Following discussions on the pedagogical and professional effects of using miniature in a design studio, the paper introduces De-Urban Design Studio’s philosophy and its experience in employing miniature as a way of representation as the case study.
Different from the urban design’s professional role which materialized in conventional architectural presentation, miniature appears as a representation way in the search for the appropriate media for the de-urban design’s activist model.
Expressing the philosophy of transition design and de-urbanization, and studying some of the miniatures produced in the De-Urban Design studio, this paper sheds light on the possibilities created by the usage of miniature in urban design studio as a communication medium in making the processes of design more inclusiveness, participatory and democratic.
The term miniatecture is used for the first time as a representation technique developed in the De-Urban Design Studio co-instructed by the authors of this paper.
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Miniature painting is a traditional illustration art, initially used in manuscript books to strengthen the impact of narratives (Çetin, 2018). The origin of the word miniature can be traced back to the word minimum, referring to the red lead used for the illumination of chapter heads and capital letters in the medieval period, also highlights its relation with scripts. In addition to its association with text which makes miniature painting a comprehensive communication media, based on its philosophical foundation, it has an influential relation with design. This art was called nakış in Turkish, deriving from nagsh in Arabic, in the meaning of pattern or design (Konak, 2015a, b). The act of design in miniature painting deals with the arrangement and the selection of the representation of multiple spaces and times simultaneously. This specific qualification of miniature painting creates a distinctive potential of flexible and creative usage mainly in the transitional and complex events which happen in various spaces and various times and involve representation of multifarious actors. The paper proposes that miniature painting can be used as an effective medium of communication for urban design and reflect the lively, multilayered and composite characteristics of urban space.
With regard to these ideas, and learning from the research by design works of De-Urban Design Studio, this paper introduces an original approach to design representation by reporting the process of design and final products of design studio inspired from traditional miniature painting.
2. Miniature qualifications and their advantages in urban design studio
Referring to the recent studies on re-employing the art of miniature for current purposes, and with the aim of supporting its usage in urban design studio, this paper creates a detailed description on the qualifications of miniature painting as a guideline for its re-employment in the field of urban design. These qualifications are listed under the following six titles: association with a script, multiplicity of viewpoints, multiplicity of events, incompleteness, absence of hierarchy and descriptive presentation.
2.1 Association with a script
Miniatures are not only illustrated to support a text, but also coexist with it. Scripts and miniatures are interdependent to each other. Text and miniature, their orders and focuses, cooperate and coexist (Şener, 2007). Together, script and miniature create a strong conceptual and emotional medium for transferring ideas (Plate 1).
Different than conventional drawings in architecture and urban design which only reflects the final product of design, this qualification of miniature can help to illustrate different aspects and processes of design, such as conceptual background, environmental conditions, social dynamics, usage of spaces and change in design by time.
2.2 Multiplicity of viewpoints
Viewpoints in miniature are multiple, because the designer of miniature tries to see the scene from diverse viewpoints and depict them in different views, for example, from the top, bottom or front simultaneously (Şener, 2007) (Plate 2). Accordingly, it is possible to see the same object, building or event, simultaneously from different views. The front and back, inside and outside can be presented in the same scene.
This qualification helps designers to show the relations and connections and emphasize on what can be essential to be followed. Going beyond the limits of conventional drawings, the multiplicity of viewpoints let the designer to combine section, plan and perspective in the same image.
2.3 Multiplicity of events
Miniature painting represents not only spaces and events but also different moments and places in which these events happen. The conception of time in miniature painting reflects the multiplicity of events and moments. Multiple events can be represented, without having a sequential and hierarchical order (Keskin, 2018). The conception of time in miniature is not limited to a frozen moment of the design, but includes various events happening at different moments within the same period of time, which also gives the opportunity of presence in different places at the same time (Şener, 2007). Accordingly, in miniature, designer tries to locate representations of different spaces and events in a non-linear organization (Plate 3). These represented different events and places come together and create a pattern (Konak, 2015a, b). Each of these places and events are depicted with their own compositional features and simultaneous views, free from the subjective and classifying viewpoint of the designer, but with a holistic view.
This qualification of miniature painting provides an urban designer the practicability to present diverse stages of the same project in different moments or different places. This ability of representing multiple times and events is more valuable for transitional or long-term projects.
Frame is absent or ignored in miniature. Sometimes the frame is hidden in the depiction, and sometimes it is the inner side of the extended figures. The absence of frame promotes continuity and makes an impression of incompleteness and openness to contributions (Plate 4). Miniature’s open composition and freed and ignored frame create an open-ended and fluid presentation (Şener, 2007).
This incompleteness paves the way for additions and contributions. In urban projects, it improves the inclusive, democratic and bottom up processes and enables revisions during the implementation of the project or even later.
2.5 Absence of hierarchy
In miniature there is accumulated reverse perspective, which illustrates each object or event with its own perspective based on its unique angle and center, rather than a central perspective in which the whole image is drawn upon a single horizon line (Plate 5). This accumulated reverse perspective removes the hierarchy between objects based on their distance from the eyes of the designer. Conversely, objects and events are located beside each other without any superimposition or order (Şener, 2007).
This qualification of miniature painting makes it possible to decentralize and distribute the focal points. In urban projects in which diverse strategies for various places are proposed, this qualification can support the clarity of representation and can prevent any supremacy between them.
2.6 Descriptive presentation
Rather than constructing and representing a space, miniatures illustrate the environmental aspects which complement the events happening in a narrative. Miniature avoids the use of volume, distance and atmospheric effects which create three-dimensional and realistic representations, but rather utilizes two dimensional, descriptive and schematic illustrations of spaces (Plate 6). This kind of illustration is organized along linear axes which can develop toward different directions of the painting surface (Keskin, 2018).
The descriptive presentation of space creates the opportunity of including various agents of the same event in the image. Accordingly, representation of a holistic view is possible by using miniature paintings in urban design projects.
3. De-urban design studio
De-Urban Design Studio is a research by design laboratory which re-imagines human settlements as de-urbanized, ethical, equitable, self-organizing, self-sufficient, resilient, autonomous, eco-centric and ecological co-habitats. In addition to the research agenda, De-Urban Design Studio leads an educational program for the students of the fourth year of architecture undergraduate studies at Girne American University (Sadri and Zeybekoğlu-Sadri, 2018). De-Urban Design Studio’s main focus is de-urbanization as an urban transition project which aims:
reversing back the social and ecological destruction of urbanization through de-urbanization process, in order to create permanent and communal habitats in harmony with nature and regenerate and restore social and ecological systems; and
creating a new understanding of contents, applications and scales of spatial design both in educational and professional milieu.
3.1 De-urbanization as a vision
Imagining the most appropriate mode of habitats, as a long-term visionary project is the first step of the de-urbanization process. This includes a vision for re-organizing the relationships between humans, other animals and with living and nonliving components of nature. These visionary projects lead us through the whole planning and design process of our environments in order to transform them into:
Ethical, resilient and self-sufficient human settlements which are free from any kind of oppression, hegemony and violence.
Independent, communal and collective communities where people can work, produce and enjoy their lives in solidarity rather than competition; access to all resources, services and amenities (including cultural, artistic and scientific productions) equally; and establish their local governance structures in which all inhabitants can participate actively and equitably.
Localized and humanly scaled habitats, which are in harmony with their local environments’ natural, climatic, biological and ecological conditions.
Clean, fertile and productive landscapes, which are detached from centralized distribution systems of food, water, energy, and products and independent from the use of fossil fuels and other pollutants, which can generate their own energy from renewable resources, produce their own food without using any chemicals, harvest their own water without destroying water resources and use local materials for construction without polluting the environment (Sadri and Zeybekoğlu-Sadri, 2018).
3.2 De-urban design as transdisciplinary knowledge
De-Urban Design is a transdisciplinary knowledge which unites different fields of design (such as transition design and permaculture design), philosophy (social ecology, ethics) and science (such as architecture, urban design, social science and environmental science) together.
To be able to make the long-term visionary project attainable, quick, realistic and applicable short-term and middle-term strategies are created. De-Urban Design borrows this methodology from transition design. Transition design is a design approach which received inspiration from transition town movement, a grassroots movement that was initiated in 2006 in Totnes, UK and then spread to several other cities, towns and neighborhoods worldwide (Hodgson and Hopkins, 2010).
To be able to create self-sufficient and holistic design, De-Urban Design Studio also employs techniques and methods of Permaculture Design, a holistic design philosophy and methodology that was first introduced by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 in their book “Permaculture One” (Mollison and Holmgren, 1990). Permaculture design has its roots in appropriate observation of natural ecosystems, their elements, relations between those elements and their behaviors under different circumstances. Permaculture transforms this information obtained from the observation of nature into creation and continuation of productive, integrative, regenerative, self-sufficient and permanent human habitats. Through Permaculture design, these human settlements not only sustainably respond to and take advantage of existing conditions of any site, such as climate, topography, water, soil, biomass, natural energy resources, but also maintain social and economic development of communities inhabiting those settlements (Mollison, 2002).
The design approach of Permaculture is based on web of life system, which means creating a cycle where outputs (e.g. chicken manure) can be utilized as inputs (e.g. fertilizer) within the system that is being designed. This approach requires creating connections between all the components of any given system (if, e.g. a garden is being designed these components can be water, soil, topography, existing ecosystem, climatic conditions, existing structures on site and human beings) in order to create maximum yield (food, soil, energy, biodiversity, networks, etc.) with minimum intervention and energy input. This principle of understanding, utilizing and maximizing existing components and connections in natural settings can be applied to social, cultural, political and economic organizations of human beings, namely the invisible structures of communal life (Mollison, 2002).
The main philosophy and ethics of De-Urban Design Studio derives from two main sources: Ethics of Permaculture design and social ecology. Permaculture design introduces three ethics, namely care for the earth, care for people and fair share (Mollison, 2002). Social ecology provides De-Urban Design with another ethical framework, “the ethics of complementarity” in which “human beings would complement nonhuman beings with their own capacities to produce a richer, creative, and developmental whole – not as a ‘dominant’ species but as supportive one” (Bookchin, 2006). By Bookchin’s (2006) definition, social ecology:
Challenges the entire system of domination itself – its economy, its misuse of technics, its administrative apparatus, its degradations of political life, its destruction of the city as a center of cultural development, indeed the entire panoply of its moral hypocrisies and defiling of the human spirit – and seeks to eliminate the hierarchical and class edifices that have imposed themselves on humanity and defined the relationship between nonhuman and human nature.
According to social ecology understanding, the way human beings interact with nature is a reflection of social relations of human beings. As long as human social relations are defined by hierarchy and domination, the human civilization will continue to dominate, exploit, destroy and pollute nature. This is why Bookchin (2006) underlines that “ethics of complementarity” should be a driving force for human beings’ actions, so that rather than dominating nature and other human beings, human beings can re-establish their relations in a way that will nourish nature and enrich human beings’ lives”.
Since De-Urban Design aims to restore social and ecological harms of urbanization and capitalism, it needs deep studies on social and environmental issues. Accordingly, De-Urban Design benefits from diverse fields of science including but not limited to social science and environmental science.
In addition to the transdisciplinary sources of design, science and philosophy, Architecture and Urban Design constitute the foundations of De-Urban Design present as the main source of knowledge, by providing spatial analysis, building, and organizing skills, including but not limited to: analyzing any given site, its environmental conditions and the human needs in detail; organizing and planning buildings, spaces and interactions adequately; utilizing the most appropriate resources, materials and building techniques for any given context; managing the whole process of analysis, design, and construction efficiently; and communicating ideas and proposals to a number of audience including colleagues and users through a variety of visualization and representation techniques.
Empowered by the transdisciplinary contributions, and with the core knowledge coming from the field of architecture and urban design, de-urban design is enabled to have an ethical, scientific, holistic and political approach to the design of space.
A De-Urban Designer is not a professional arm of a production system but a consultant, activist or facilitator in the service of local community. Accordingly, s/he needs strong communication devices and skills. The existing communication medium of the profession is not appropriate; therefore, a new medium needs to be developed. In the past two years, De-Urban Design Studio employed miniature painting as a way of representation and communication in the design studio to free the discipline from the limits of profession and find a way to serve to the activist role of de-urban designer.
4. Miniatures of de-urban design studio
The usage of miniature painting as a communication medium, the engagement of students in related research and studies, feedback processes, and employing the methods of miniature design and testing its qualifications enhance the potential of active and experiential learning (Salama, 2008) in urban design studios. In addition to supporting an active and experiential learning environment in urban design studios, simulating real urban projects and their related processes, miniatures free students from the limits of solid professional perspective and its top-down and hierarchical attitude. Contrary to the conventional representation techniques, miniatures express strategies, processes and products of design. Accordingly, this medium opens the contributions of local inhabitants in the decision making and during the implementation processes of projects. Especially in the transitional or long-term projects, such as the projects of the De-Urban Design Studio, these qualifications can play important roles in creating more democratic and inclusive projects.
Miniatures of De-Urban Design Studio can present to the inhabitants of the selected neighborhoods about the essentials of the transition process, which can be given as follows.
4.1 Design philosophy
As it is seen in the sample miniature (Plate 7) designed by Mona Alchehadeh for the transition of Tabriz city, using the multiplicity of events, absence of hierarchy and descriptive presentation qualifications, the transformation of city from urbanized one to de-urbanized and the impacts of this transformation on people and physical environment is clearly presented.
4.2 Design approach
The work of Muzaffer Yürekli (Plate 8) uses the qualification of multiplicity of viewpoints and shows the relations and connections between components and, accordingly, the approach of design in creating connections and raising the resiliency.
4.3 Design scope
Ceyda Oflaz’s miniature uses absence of hierarchy to distribute the focal point and represent diverse strategies for diverse places in Fathabad Village (Plate 9).
4.4 Design vision
Nursultan Eshenaliev in his work for Manhattan demonstrates the long-term vision of a neighborhood by using the qualifications of multiplicity of events and descriptive presentation (Plate 10). Additionally the incompleteness of the image creates the potential of revision for the local inhabitants.
4.5 Design concept
Seda Baydur presents the main concept of her project in addressing the problems of the neighborhood, the city, the region and the planet in a holistic way by using the multiplicity of events and descriptive presentation in her miniature (Plate 11).
4.6 Design outputs
In the work of Kaan Benli, the qualifications of the absence of hierarchy and the multiplicity of viewpoints and events enable the presentation of diverse design outputs for diverse places without creating any supremacy between them (Plate 12).
Different from conventional presentation techniques in architecture and urban design which are useful for the concrete and rigid, previously designed inalterable projects, miniatures and their accompanying texts empower local residents to use and interpret design philosophies, processes and outputs for creating their own transition manifestos, and building their own projects. Diverse qualifications of miniature painting play complementary roles in making the urban design process more inclusive and democratic:
association with scripts makes the projects, their policies and processes more readable for the local inhabitants;
multiplicity of viewpoints underlines the relations between diverse components and outcomes of design;
multiplicity of events enables designers to present transitions and various phases of design;
incompleteness creates the possibility of revisions and contributions;
absence of hierarchy prevents the supremacy of one part of the project over the others and accordingly avoids exclusions; and
descriptive presentation expresses the diverse agents of design and their relations in a holistic way.
In addition to the pedagogical benefits of using the creative medium of miniature in urban design studio, the potential of miniature in not limiting designers and students to the final outcome of their design and encouraging them to include the process of design which has the potential of transforming design professions toward more democratic and inclusive practices. Miniature helps to create a more direct and organic direction between the design and users of the projects. Just as the language shapes our thinking, this new representation tool provides a new way of thinking for designers.
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The authors would like to acknowledge the students who took ARC401 De-Urban Design Studio Course during 2017–2018 Fall and 2018–2019 Fall semesters at the Department of Architecture, Girne American University.