The Chicago Athenaeum and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies have together announced a group of Turkish architects and human rights activists as the 2023 European Prize for Architecture laureates.
Architect Ayse Mücella Yapici, urban planner Tayfun Kahraman, and attorney for the Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects Can Atalay are the Prize's 18th, 19th, and 20th laureates, respectively. The trio have been in prison since late May on charges of sedition tied to their involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protests. Christian Narkiewicz-Laine, President and CEO of The Chicago Athenaeum, said their status is the product of a "years-long campaign of blatant political persecution" waged by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against his critics.
The Prize was thus given out in honor of their bold fight for justice. Each is in prison after undergoing three separate trials for their supposed treason in using their position within the government to help organize the protests. (The first two have led to acquittals.) A citation stated that Yapici specifically "did this only for the necessity of her profession, and she acted solely for better living conditions in cities."
The government's failed preparation for February's devastating 7.8 earthquake was also seen as a motivating factor in each of their arrests.
Yapici and her co-defendants now join previous awardees such as Mecanoo, Henning Larsen, Bjarke Ingels, Santiago Calatrava, and last year's laureate Christoph Ingenhoven as winners of the Prize, among others. This award is meant to not only recognize achievements in the built environment but also advocate for its best uses and maintenance from practitioners in keeping with the "highest standards of European civilization."
Fittingly, a formal ceremony for the laureates will be held in their absence on Friday, September 15th, from the Acropolis in Athens. Each is currently serving an 18-year sentence, barring any possible future interventions, pardons, or governmental change.
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