IDEA Conversations 2 - Doç. Dr. Mehmet Asatekin & Prof. Dr. Gülay Hasdoğan

In the second of the IDEA conversations, Prof. Dr. Gülay Hasdoğan undertook the moderatorship of the meeting in which Associate Doctor Mehmet Asatekin, one of the founders of the Middle East Technical University Department of Industry Products Design, was the guest. Asatekin, who said “Industrial design is a branch different from architecture. One cannot be a designer with an architect viewpoint, a person must learn this profession starting from scratch and forgetting what they know”, cited by acting upon his personal experiences the formation process of the industrial design profession from years of establishment of the section up to this day.

While you are progressing from the periods, when the approach of architect makes everything of European tradition is adapted, to the approach of everybody must do whatever they know of the USA, you can reach to the pleasant conversation that lasted three hours, in which observations about area of profession taken place, from ETMK youtube account. With this letter, we wanted to present a short section from the conversation.

Gülay Hasdoğan: When we started the department as a student, you became one of our model teachers to be followed. You have a very special and important place. Among our teachers, there were many persons who were city planners and architects. I know that the lessons you’ve taken from David K. Munro during your undergraduate education also have effects, now I want to ask you, why did you switch to industrial design by leaving the architectural discipline?

Mehmet Asatekin: There are two main questions that we can ask, why is my preference to make internal transfer to a branch other than architecture and why this department. Roots of the architecture education in Turkey come mostly from Europe, there is French education model that came from École des Beaux-Arts. When we consider European tradition; like France, the approach that shows itself in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands is that the architect thinks and fulfils the building entirely. This approach started before Art Nouveau and continuing, later it also appears before us in modernism. Le Corbusier make its furniture and wall carpet as well. Architecture in Europe have a tradition of creating an environment from needle to thread. When we look at METU and also during education we learnt this as architecture has possession of everything and continue like this. Later when we think of American schools, everybody plays their own game in this ecole. Even though Mies van der Rohe or Alvar Aalto designed other products, the approach of America is quite different. The motivation also in opening this department in METU originates from arising of the international scale branches.

When we were just at first-grade there were news that the department will be opened, I started to know what its difference from architecture was, it was one of the subjects we were instructed. News about opening of the department became clearer after the completion of my education. Architectural discipline much excites me every time, in addition to architecture, industrial design as a scale for which I could personally have comprehensive knowledge was attractive to me. While becoming reality of the buildings take years, I assumed that the period for products is shorter. I thought it would be an exciting scale. I passed to a different course in my career for knowing the department better and because it was interesting. I set out on this road since I got excited. Curiosity become more effective after a certain time. For 4 years I obtained information relating to history, technology, structure and this new branch would provide me with full of new information.

Gülay Hasdoğan: Throughout my education life I remember hearing from you this statement: “Industrial design is a different branch from architecture. One cannot be a designer with a viewpoint an architect, a new point of view must be gained”. But what I heard from architects in other establishments I have contact with abroad was different, they think that one must be an architect first in order to become an industrial designer. If there is an architectural department in some schools, effect of the architectural principles on the industrial design department would be rather dominant. You, beginning from the establishment, said the opposite of this. I have wondered, what was the intention behind it, was it self-reliance of us or you believed to this?

Mehmet Asatekin: Of course, because I believe. With this foresight I studied for my master degree in this area. I started this way and started to study in this subject. In every branch and in all courses, I saw how it was different from architecture. I saw what we were told at the beginning was coming from European tradition. After architecture in which I finished my 4-year of education, I was required to forget all I know when I came to industrial design department. Technical drawing, market relations, production methods were different, by putting aside all my knowledges other than design notion, I learned from scratch. Also, the basic design itself change, drawing changes. Together with my friends in engineering discipline, I learned at nights and taught students adays. I suffered this pain, I thought that better let architects don’t come to this department so that others don’t suffer.

Gülay Hasdoğan: I think this approach originated from your humble personality. You made a great effort for many years, carried on studies and was in charge of the head of department and in a period that can be thought very early yet, looked to those professional by saying; “Department must be carried on by the persons who received this education”, this became a model approach for us, what was behind of this?

Mehmet Asatekin: I did it because I attach important to the education itself. Education ensures reaching to a certain accumulation of knowledge briefly. Information and experiences are collected collectively and teachers transfer this information. There is a cumulative knowledge here and this is transferred. The definition of design and designer changed, and that effects the change of the profession. Interaction in architecture does not change for thousand of years by humans. Whereas in industrial design, this change is so fast that it must be studied every day to make a claim for that. This is also valid for design practice. It is easier to learn the design practice from pragmatic person. Some of our friends have a part in the academy for the purpose of transferring the obtained professional knowledge there and share it. Nowadays, we also see the part-time involvement of those persons having professional experience, this is very useful. It is important to be able to obtain knowledge and experience from both academicians and practician persons.

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