Harran has been the gateway of civilisations for more than 5.000 years in Mesopotamia. Greek, Roman, Assyrian and Babel societies left traces, ruins, patterns, know-how and knowledge through different ages.
What is Harran’s color today and how to translate it with a basic and contemporary language?
This is the story of atlas design collection; translating Mesopotamian knowledge, know-how, culture and aesthetic to today’s world with a product and textile line.
The standing point of atlas collection is based on taking unique and real references from the sophisticated culture, aesthetic and knowledge of Mesopotamia through ages. We designed a tailored methodology concerning the cultural legacy of Harran and how to translate it into today’s world with a democratic and collective sense.
First, we designed the organizational structure and selected the right designers for the project. Harran Governership, with the leadership of Ömer Faruk Çelik, governor of Harran, is managing the project and ILO (International Labor Organization) is supporting the project financially, providing the materials and developing the ateliers in Harran.
Felt, wood, weaving, ceramic workshops were already developed with the support of ILO and İŞKUR (a governmental institute providing necessary support for developing labor especially in disadvantaged regions) when we arrived there. The current model needs to be sustainable with an added value, extending the cultural richness of the region to the global world in the form of a design collection.
After the site visits with the designer team and the commission, we went through a research process and defined the design values, design criteria and production criteria. Following this, the process was evolved with design and production follow ups, meetings, juries and the final presentation.
The most important point of the methodology was to create a know-how to translate the historical references to a contemporary language with taking today’s constantly changing consumer habits into account.
The Democratic Approach
The organizational scheme of the project is based on a democratic and collective approach connecting the governmental institutions with non-profit organizations, academia designers and opinion leaders.
As the curators of the project, it was crucial for us to bring a diverse group of professionals together to open discussions and set the project framework collectively. The whole process was planned as a democratic and transparent platform. This is why we put a commission together by inviting academics and other professionals who are; Assistant Professor Veli Şafak Uysal, The Vice Dean of Istanbul Bilgi University Faculty of Architecture, Prof.Dr. Mehmet Önal, Archeologist and Site Director of Harran Archeological Area and Cevahir Asuman Yazmacı, a local entrepreneur founded Cevahir Han Hotel in Urfa.
In the scope of the project, we have been working with product and textile designers from September 2017 to March 2018. We believe in the organic interactions and we have a mission to represent designers in the right project with right timing and right context. We chose six product and textile designers whom we have been already representing in our design publication (in-between.online). All the invited designers established unique design languages within the global design scene.
The design values of atlas are translating the intangible into the tangible.
Different layers of civilizations around Harran and Mesopotamia. Architectural, geometrical, textural and cultural references differentiating each period of time, astronomy and daily life rituals were chosen as our main values.
The product language and aesthetic had to be genuine to Mesopotamia’s geography; translating Mesopotamian references into our time, addressing contemporary design discussion and today’s consumer habits. The products had to be functional, light and modular which could be used in daily life.
Concerning the production, the designed products had to be easy to produce in the workshops placed in Harran and Urfa, with using materials, techniques and forms allowing continuity in the production which supports the local labor.
The Social Aspect
The social responsibility aspect of this project was built on the model supporting the local and refugee women living in the land of Urfa to generate their economic independence by being at the core of the production process in the workshops built in Harran and Urfa. These women will make their living with being involved in the sales revenues. In order to make this sustainable, one of the main criteria in developing this project was that the whole collection should be able to produced in these particular workshops and address the current consumer habits.