This video shows a lecture by Fiyel Levent on the occasion of TEDxCooperUnion. Levent holds a Bachelor in Architecture from The Cooper Union, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literature from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She began her professional practice at Anik Pearson Architect, where she managed various architectural projects ranging from ground-up buildings to apartment renovations. In 2007, Levent was awarded the Deborah J. Norden Travel Grant to Andalucia, Spain through The Architectural League. In 2009, she launched her own studio, exhibiting work at various galleries that drew inspiration from her interest in Central Asian and Islamic Architecture. Levent aims to design and build custom architectural installations which achieve something close to the sublime in their relationship to light. In 2010, she was awarded the Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant from The Center for Architecture. Levent has given lectures at The Urban Center for Architecture, The Cooper Union, Parsons and RPI. During this lecture, she talks about her journeys, work and her fascination with other cultures that she uses in her architectural practice.
The speaker explains that she has always been very interested in how architecture involves, how it has been re appropriated and recycled throughout culture in its overtime. As an architect observing and documenting these historical curiosities it has always played an essential part in the development of her own work. She describes that her effort centers around melding of traditional functions and aesthetics with contemporary technologies and sensibilities. She has always treated travel as a central to this endeavor.
A few years ago Levent was able to go to Andalusia in Southern Spain to document and analyze the architectural history of the Arabic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. She explains that it was a period of five hundred years of intense cultural exchange that resulted in flourishing of the arts and science while the much of the rest of the Europe were still in the dark ages. Last year she was also able to take another trip and travel to what is known as the Northern Silk Road. It was one of the few limited geographic passages connecting Europe to the far East. For years she wanted to do this path particularly because it was such a crucial bridge connecting extremely diverse artistic and architectural traditions. For two and half months she was able to travel between Uzbekistan and Sheehan in Central China, one of the ancient Chinese capitals and determinant of all road leading East.
She starts her description about the results of these trips from mythic capital of the Empire of Timur, one of the greatest conquers of Central Asia who lived in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Although he was extremely brutal and destructive he was also a great patron of the art, oftentimes transporting craftsmen from one place to another to build grand projects in Uzbekistan. As an example she shows Shahi-Zinda Complex which is one of the great necropolis built between eleventh and the nineteenth centuries. It contains some of the most complex three-dimensional glaze tailings in all of Central Asia. There is a possibility to actually see the signatures of the Persian craftsmen inscribes onto the structures. But as they began to travel more she saw that it actually really greatly resembled a lot of the very early muslims found in Kirgizstan and Bukhara which both feature extremely intricate brickwork that was built way before the technology of glazing ever arrived in these lands. She convinces that it was amazing to see how this conquer had caused these collaborations and brought these craftsmen together to build and provide the platform for these innovations in technology and aesthetics.
The lecturer explains that after traveling and seeing these places firsthand she realizes that history is at once disposal and this is what her work tries to be about. It is about having the facility of using and working with the history and stories of these heritages and transforming them into something that might one day be called today’s modernity.
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