The Haptic and Visual Considerations of Public Spaces: Otto Herbert Hajek’s Proposal for Hergelen Square in Ankara


ABSTRACT This paper considers the German sculptor Otto Herbert Hajek’s (1927-2005) sculpture located in one of the oldest public spaces in Ankara, Hergelen Square. Today rapid urbanization shapes our cities on the basis of overly mathematized and rationalized rules. This determinist tendency suggests some geometric and formalist norms as a reference for the formation of cities. The excessive rationalism and the formalist trends draw our attentions on the appearance of the building facades, stylistic motifs and cause us to neglect that what constitutes public spaces are not the geometric order of the surrounding buildings but the longstanding established social paths. As Rykwert noted those paths are the movement of people, social routes that carries communication between different communities and give a public square social establishment (Rykwert, The Necessity of Artifice, 1982). In this regard, this paper explores Hajek’s approach in Hergelen square as an alternative model which questions the haptic qualities in the formation of public squares and cities. Hapticity emphasizes bodily movements, performances and inherited social routes rather than visual qualities of the spaces (O'Neill, 2001). Addressing Hajek’s work it is argued that giving more account to the visual qualities of the public spaces i.e. stylistic appearance of the buildings or display of representational shapes or motifs may limit our communications with a city by visual level. However by revealing the inherited social paths public spaces may continue to reconstruct new social and emotional relations. Within this framework the purpose of this article is to propose some working methods which may help us to consider public spaces not much from stylistic (and technocratic) aspects but social and emotional ones. Discourse analysis is the main methodological approach in this research. At the first stage the memories of the inhabitants will be analysed in order to understand how the social paths were constructed in the square. Following that Hajek’s notes, explanations, paintings and sculpture will be analysed to reveal how the artist responded to these established pathways. The results will be evaluated at the final stage.