The in-between space of multiple belongings
- Architecture and...
Irem Biter, a master's student in Interior Architecture (corpo-real), feels like she exists "in-between": between her birth country Turkey and the Netherlands, between the traditional and the experimental. In her graduation research, Irem investigates the ‘being in-betweenness' through architecture. "Both the Dutch and Turkish communities sometimes make me feel like I don't belong. I inhabit an in-betweenness. That's why I am searching for a spatial reflection of this specific feeling: the in-between space."
While pursuing her bachelor's degree in Architecture in Turkey, Irem realized that the traditional educational approach did not align with her interests. "I am more interested in subcultures, communities, and identities that are not physically represented within formal architecture," she explains. "Through the master's course at ArtEZ, I could focus more on my personal interests and a sense of discovery. During my bachelor's degree in Turkey, I felt it was difficult to step out of my comfort zone. But here, I can explore other interests and combine my background in architecture with the things that also interest me."
The experience of Turkish queer immigrants
The intertwining of theoretical and artistic research is characteristic of the Interior Architecture master's course. For Irem, it is a remarkable element because through conducting research, she has experienced what it truly means to step out of your comfort zone. In her research, Irem focuses on the feeling of existing "in-between." She has chosen to specifically centralize the lived experiences of Turkish queer immigrants. "By researching that particular group, Turkish queer immigrants, I genuinely stepped out of my comfort zone. Since I am not queer myself, there was much to discover," Irem explains.
For Irem, the master's course was the opportunity to practice new research methods. "I contemplated ethics and how a design can be just. Instead of simply conducting interviews with the immigrants to gather information about them, we collaboratively created physical collages to learn more about what an in-between space truly entails. I wanted to place their voices at the center. I have learned a lot by specifically employing that method."
Challenging the hierarchy with design
In the past, Irem believed in a seperation between the user and the designer, a kind of hierarchy in the design process. But during her research, she quickly realized that this hierarchy is not set in stone. Irem says, "As a designer, I always ask myself: Who is this design intended for? Through my research, I discovered that you can question the hierarchy of design. If you want to create inclusive designs, you need to consider the people who are directly influenced by the design," explains Irem. "The people for whom I design should be part of the entire process and not just use the design at the end of the process. Their voices should be at the center. I believe that design can truly cause a societal shift in that way, or at least challenge the prevailing power hierarchy."
Through my research, I discovered that you can question the hierarchy of design. If you want to create inclusive designs, you need to consider the people who are directly influenced by the design."
Exploring new forms
In addition to new research methods, Irem has also learned how to work with new forms of media as an interior architect. For example, Irem now uses visual media, " to expand a space further!" she enthusiastically explains. "This master's course has truly enabled me to discover new things and develop my strengths. My tutors supported me in experimenting with new forms. I use sound, light, videos, and models to convey my ideas. My tutors were very pleased to see me combining those elements."
"Find your flow and step out of your comfort zone"
After graduation, Irem plans to continue her research on in-between spaces and identity. She also intends to keep on living and working in the Netherlands. "By studying here, I can move more freely and discover what my strengths are. I want to continue exploring the influence of identity on space. I am not done with this topic yet."
And what advice would she give to future students? "Find your flow, try new things, and step out of your comfort zone. During my bachelor's degree in Turkey, I had a limited idea of what architecture entailed, to the extent that I even thought I didn't like the technical aspect of architecture at all. Studying at ArtEZ has truly shown me how broad the field actually is."