MECRA- Guvenevler Culture Hub
- Project Date: 2023
- Location: Mersin, Turkey
- Client: Mersin Yenisehir Municipality
- Project Team: Cem Ilhan, Tulin Hadi, Sezin Beldağ, Ayşegül Ersin, Efe Toz, Kulturhane
MECRA- Güvenevler Culture Hub – Mersin (A Hub of Culture for Neighborhood Scale Organizations)
Kulturhane was founded in Mersin by a group of scholars expelled from their academic posts for being among the petitioners for peace in 2017. It is a café-library offering a study space with more than 10,000 books and periodicals and hosting public events. Since its foundation, hundreds of talks, concerts, video-projections, expositions and workshops took place. Gradually, a large community of fellow-citizens from different backgrounds and profiles has flourished through encounters during these events. They call themselves as the Kulturhane Constellation.
From the first day after the disaster, the community got mobilized as Mersin was miraculously untouched despite its closeness to the disaster area. With this proximity, Mersin became a strategic location for identifying realistic needs and destinations as well as rapidly transferring them. The priority was to find and transfer urgent needs of the disaster area. Using their own resources, the Constellation managed to provide dozens of tents, blankets, generators, drills, search & rescue equipment as well as food and clothes. Without an open call for funding and support, people all around the globe contacted Kulturhane and offered their support and assistance. As the aid to the area from other places reached to a certain level albeit still in a quasi-chaos, the Constellation shifted their efforts to the urgent needs of the survivors who have taken refuge in Mersin. Since the disastrous earthquake, Kulturhane has thus become a hub of solidarity and disaster-relief despite its spatial limits: a whole reading room and half of the library is transformed to storeroom whereas students continue to study in the same place despite all the traffic and noise of the aid organization.
The architectural plan of the place has been always an obstacle for organizing many events and/or welcoming a greater audience. Therefore, the Constellation has been reflecting upon possible solutions to spatial restrictions of the present place. A few months ago, they had contacted the district municipality about using a part of the neighboring public parc to offer a space for public and collective events not only for Kültürhane but also for other civil organizations and groups. After their green light, they had started developing a plan on how to use this space without changing its public character.
The recent experience of the disaster relief further revealed the importance of such a collective public space that could serve as a refuge for survivors, stocking the gathered goods or organizing the distribution of the aid. These tasks will hopefully be lightened in the days to come. It will though take long time to meet all the needs of the survivors such as the psychological rehabilitation of survivors and online education opportunities. Having an extra-space for such upcoming tasks would be thus very valuable.
The draft plan of the annex based on these needs and priorities is plotted by TECE Mimarlık having important experiences on public space designs.
The plan consists of the following units:
Main Multi-Functional Hall:
The main hall will be the major unit of the site with 90 square meters of space that can be used as an auditorium, class, meeting room or gallery. The hall will meet the spatial needs of organizations, communities or neighboring fellow-citizens who plan to organize small-scaled gatherings. It will be equipped with modular furniture so that it will be easily transformed for different tasks and organizations. For times of emergency, the hall can be transformed even to a provisory dormitory or dining-hall. Another provisory function would be facilitating students’ access to distant learning sessions by transforming the hall to a computer lab with internet access, headphones and microphones.
A separate space of 15 square meters will be allocated for the activities addressing to kids only. The room will be particularly functional in the days to come for rehabilitative activities for the kids from the disaster area. There are a lot of organizations that have been developing projects on this domain and will surely welcome enthusiastically this area for the realization of their activities.
Toilets and Showers:
The importance of accessible public toilets is well-known even for ordinary times, but their importance has been even accentuated during times of crisis when people can not or do not want to enter to their apartments in high buildings.
The presence of showers should be considered as an indirect factor encouraging ecological means of transport such as walking and cycling by offering an opportunity to refresh and clean-up.
Another opportunity that the site will offer to encourage bicycle use will be the repair shop that will offer the basic equipment for repairing and maintaining bicycles. The shop will be non-profit and managed directly by the cyclists themselves.
Library of Things:
As stated above, Kulturhane offers thousands of books and periodicals on a large scope scientific domains. For long, they have been dreaming about sharing other goods and equipment that are required rarely by households such as ladders, drills, brushes etc. or used only for a while such as toys or baby clothes. Due to the spatial restrictions, they have not yet realized this idea. With the space that will be available on the site, they will be able to gather these goods and offer them for sharing.
The existing small hall that is reserved for storing goods to be distributed to the earthquake survivors had been used by a local artist as a painting workshop. The idea of offering a space for local artists was thus appreciated by not only by artists but also by art-lovers who would be delighted to witness the production of art pieces. A container size (approx. 15 square meters) area will be allocated to artists for artistic production or formations. The area will be managed by the community of local artists with whom Kültürhane has close relations and cooperations.
There will be a small coffee-shop on the site that will offer snacks and beverages during organizations and gatherings. The idea is to recruit here at least one earthquake survivor who has taken refuge in Mersin so that s/he can earn his life from this small business corner.
A dozen of seed beds will be located on the roof of containers to initiate and demonstrate basic organic farming and reproduction of heirlooms.
In front of the containers a wooden structure will be constructed to offer a shadowed open space that can be used as a lodge and/or stage for openair activities.