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Notes from Istanbul, the setting of the 2005 World Congress of Architecture

Notes from Robert Ivy, FAIA, Editor-in-Chief

The UIA, an international organization of architects, has wobbled from famine to feast. While formerly troubled economically, the past seems far behind today, if the lively turnout in Istanbul for the organization's XXII World Congress of Architecture is any indication. Thousands of architects from around the world (10,000 were anticipated) are gathered on the banks of the Bosphorus to talk, share ideas and concerns, meet colleagues, and build upon the already-burgeoning international architectural culture. The occasion is gaining weight.

Suha Özkan, the 2005 President of the International Union of Architects

Perhaps drawn by Istanbul and her incomparable riches, perhaps by the multitudinous friendships of this year's UIA president, Suha Özkan, by the theme, "The Grand Bazaar of Architecture," or by the moment, they have come-a polyglot stew of people, ranging from students to superstars. After an opening celebration within the ancient walls of the city, the crowds mill and gabble, then pour into the darkened halls, rapt in the discussions and presentations occurring at numerous locations simultaneously. It's less about the substantive content, although Joseph Rykwert brings a bracing discussion on the differences between theory and criticism, than about the bazaar.

Odile Decq, a keynote speaker with a large fan base

The first encounter with such largesse can be daunting. After threading through the choices (shall I attend a keynote speech by Odile Decq from France? Or one of 10 other presentations or seminars, count them, featuring topics as diverse as urbanism in Dubai or "Removing Unfreedoms"). Dear me. Which way to turn and not miss the main show? Temporary paranoia subsides as the comforting lectures begin, only slightly askew when gaggles of students rush the keynoter at her conclusion. "Odile, Odile!" They all want autographs.

The day is drippy: for Istanbul in July, unheard of. Yet events proceed throughout the day, drawing participants up the hill to the school of architecture to grab a bite of lunch, down a corridor to an exhibition, up to a national cocktail party-and look, there's Sara Topelson, and over there, my old friend Francois. And on and on. Rumors fly; someone swore that the Hagia Sofia had been converted for the evening into a private party where her highness Zaha was interviewed by CNN, whose logo embellished the holy shrine of architecture. Mon Dieu!

Hagia Sofia, the new party place for Zaha and friends?

Outside and all around lays Istanbul, groaning under the residual weight of Emperors, kings, pashas, and Sultans. Repository of the artifacts of the world's greatest architects, including the sublime Hagia Sofia, or the architect, Sinan, mosques, hammams, colored tiles, volumetric recesses, urban bustle, the odor of spice and waste, freshets of air and water in coursing down the straights. Day 2, Istanbul, and the Congress await.