Interviewed by Ahmad Zohadi

Yasin Çağatay Seçkin

Ph.D., Vice Dean and Associate Professor of Architecture at Istanbul Technical University

Sustainability could be explained as the most important concept of the prudential discussions in the World of 21st Century. Major concepts affecting human life, such as economy, ecology and technology, all should be sustainable. However, putting ‘green’, sustainable’ or ‘organic’ in front of either a product’s name or a concept does not makes it green, sustainable or organic in real terms. As it was in the past, ‘sustainable agriculture’ should just be agriculture, or the ‘green architecture’ should just be architecture.

Firstly, it was noticed that humans have been living an unsustainable life for too many years. Then, several principles have been determined, numerous rules have been set up, and so many precautions have been taken to keep unsustainability under control. There is no doubt, sustainability principles can remind people to be sustainable, or it can enforce to be sustainable within the rules. But, the understanding and the enforcement of those principles and rules differ from culture to culture. Furthermore, all these principles and rules, if there is no enough inspection, do not make sense for the humanity without virtue.

It is not possible to create a society which 100 percent believes and applies the sustainability principles, without changing the perception or belief that environmental corruption is a natural result of population increase and technological development. Capitalist World has normalized this perception or belief, long time ago. According to current situation, if the population increases, if it was desired to have more technology and comfort, then the environment will be damaged and the footprint will be created, there is no way out.

Whereas, for example in my study area, sustainable landscapes should be responsive to the environment, re-generative, and they should contribute to the development of healthy communities. Sustainable landscapes should sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and environmental benefits. This is really a big dilemma between the description of sustainability and the perception of the society. So, for being sustainable in real terms, it is necessary to focus all humanity and all humanity should be meet in common.
There are more than one. But if we limit the area with Asia, then, The ChonGae Canal Restoration Project is the first came to my mind. It is a very good example of sustainable redevelopment initiative that transformed the urban fabric of Seoul. With this project, a lost river has been restored into a green urban corridor.

Historically, the ChonGae Canal was a naturally formed river collecting drainage from the surrounding mountains. For years, wastewater and raw sewage drained directly in the ChonGae Canal. By and by, the canal became a source of serious sanitation and health concerns. During the Japanese occupation in between 1920 and 1937, this degraded and contaminated canal was covered. Finally, in the mid 1960’s, an elevated highway was built over this canal and removed its’ all traces in the city.

The restoration provided very important benefits for the local environment. As well as improving the water quality, new design increased the local biodiversity significantly. The design also reduced air pollution, which is around 36 percent lower near the canal. The revitalized canal also decreased heat island effect. According to recent measurements, summer temperatures along the stream are five degrees cooler compared to the surroundings. Previously, flooding was a major concern, especially during Monsoon season. After the implementation of the project, it is not anymore.

In addition to all these environmental restoration effort, new urban open space has become a central gathering place for the city. The new design and water quality has allowed for people to spend their time in this area.

© Interviewed by 2A Magazine, 2015