BookPlayList --   BookPlayList

At a glance

KoruMaya is a holistic city complex leaving behind abandoned squares, sad playgrounds where kids play but not adults, commerce driven shopping malls, and architectural clusters that overpower nature. KoruMaya moves past urban architectures where user participation is nil. It brings well-being and harmony to the heart of a densely populated district.

Its inclusive city center with sport facilities, plantations for green activities, and services to support everyday life is designed for people from all walks of life, religions, and ethnicity to actively live together. KoruMaya closes the gap between generations and lifestyle; the youth will find ways to train, learn, plant and seed ideas. Mothers will expand on their practice for job opportunities while their kids play. Elderly will be given back free public place to share stories and escape solitude.

KoruMaya collects nature, architecture and culture into one space to reinvigorate local craftsmanship with the latest technologies. It sends the youth of Urfa into positive narratives and creates confident adults who will build the future story of the region.

“Anatolia is a fertile and ancient land that has already contributed so much to humanity and will continue to empower future generations through the center. The city of Urfa has been a crossing place in South Turkey for centuries. Lately it has seen an increase in populations fleeing conflicts. Attracted by historical linguistic, cultural, ethnic and economic ties, the incoming population has put pressure on host communities especially in socioeconomic disadvantageous areas where it created new fissures.

KoruMaya will serve as a public space for all communities unified at the heart of the region. It will welcome everyone in one place providing necessary services and seeding skills for children and youth. There everyone in need will be able to nourish their minds and bodies through holistic practices, mental health and psychosocial services, connect to nature through indigenous and healing horticulture, receive livelihoods support and bridge social gaps to build respect throughout the community”
– Esra Özsüer, Founder and President of Maya Foundation

“Great public space cannot be built as much as curated; it is architecture's responsibility to craft space in response to specific needs and unique practices… it is not the space itself that is meaningful; it is the way space facilitates diversity, interaction, and new negotiations that makes it meaningful.”

In focus

Where is KoruMaya?
The site is located in Eyyübiye, a district in the southern quarters of the city of Şanliurfa surrounded by the Anatolian plains in Southeastern Turkey. Urfa is known for having an almost equal numbers of Turks, Arabs, and Kurds in the region which is unique to this province making it a culturally diverse area. Situated a just 262km from the Syrian border, Eyyübiye has a population of 380.000 in a city of two million, a high number of which are Syrian refugees. The regional economy is agrarian, making it an attractive destination for newcomers despite the province’s limited job opportunities.

What is KoruMaya?
KoruMaya is the new wave of social architecture: a relay station in which free social services will be available for the local population living in Urfa. The population includes people who have lived here for generations and the newer Syrian population, now fully settled in Urfa and calling it ‘home’. It includes those who live under the poverty line and those living with disabilities.

KoruMaya is the modern-day village. An inclusive public space where everyone can actively engage: to gather, play, rest, stretch and interact with one another. Its plantation of local herbs with healing properties bringing nature to the heart of the city. KoruMaya has a city farm, a sport center and a daycare service. It is an urban hub for people to access free administrative, legal, and educational services. It is a place where experts offer mental health support. KoruMaya is modular, adaptable, circular and green. Through KoruMaya and the available services gathered in one place, alienated and neglected sectors of society will be invited to actively engage with one another and seek new opportunities.

Who imagined KoruMaya?
KoruMaya is the vision of non-profit Maya Vakfi [Foundation]. Starting with Project Lift, a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Program for vulnerable children, in December 2014, Maya grew rapidly identifying unmet needs of local populations. It all started when Emir then 16, asked his mother, Esra Özsüer, to build a project together to alleviate the trauma children fleeing war experienced. This philosophy became the ethos of Maya: mind and body support. Six years later, the foundation has established programs across the country. Its recipe for success was a social enterprise mindset; its ability to adapt its services to the people and the region’s fast–changing needs is what defines Maya’s trajectory

“A Seed is one of the greatest teachers of the planet. Its continuity is the future and each one of us is a seed.”
– Esra Özsüer, Founder and President of Maya Foundation

Clinical Psychologist Leyla Akca Atik, a Maya Trustee, initially established Maya’s programs through Art, Music and Dance Movement Therapy. She brings us back to when she met Emir & Esra:

“Emir told me about what he had seen at the camps and came up with this whole idea of helping refugee children through the arts. And why we had to use art as a healing medium not only the visual arts but the arts where you use your body, your soul, your mind so it had to be visuals, music and body movement somehow. I listened to him and I told him: “all right I can do the visual part but will need help for the music and the dance movement therapy.”

Six years later, Maya grounded a teen’s vision into Trauma Informed Schools Program in public schools across country, has reinvigorated volunteerism for local youth, created capacity building programs for civil servants and NGO workers and established a new child protection center in Istanbul.

KoruMaya is the next step.
“KoruMaya is Esra’s vision. But this is not something that we want to take ownership of and turn into a possession. This is more of a gift. A combination of what Esra channeled from the universe and what we picked up from the field and how we weave these two together.”

“All these years, we have gone from one school to another, always where the need was but we didn't have a place where people could come to us, and have that sense of community, that sense of safety, that sense of belonging. With KoruMaya, that is our first opportunity to have this.”

Who designed KoruMaya?
The site KoruMaya has been developed by the Turkish architecture firm PIN. Salih Küçüktuna and Mert Sezer tell us how it came along:

“It all started with a phone call and a brief to turn the vision into a technical drawing. Our motivation for this project is how architecture and space motivate people to create something new and push the boundaries. This region has been highly stretched lately facing poverty and cultural clashes. With this piece of land, we can give back to the people a space for them to interact and actively build new beginnings.”

“Inspired by the housing typologies and material of the region, we wanted something timeless. Instead of building a mass structure that would prove difficult to change, adjust, and interact with inside / outside, we chose a flexible set of modular clusters. It will be easy to reuse and repair; easy to rebuild for other areas in the region. The site uses adobe, raw concrete, stones, and rammed earth. The buildings and plantation form a sphere and a natural border around it. The plantation will grow local fruit trees, local herbs, and local livelihood, since there is also micro farming. And the site is very friendly to people with disabilities.”
– Salih Küçüktuna & Mert Sezer / PIN Architects

What is KoruMaya’s Mission?
KoruMaya’s primary mission is to improve access to essential services in an underserved area and to give a voice to people without a voice. The modern plaza is focused on protection, education, livelihoods and social services for people under protection threats, people living under the poverty line, and people with traumatized experiences such as fleeing war, forced migration, surviving natural disasters and loss of family. KoruMaya is a safe, inclusive and multi-functional green urban space. A coalition of experts from various civic, academic, public and private stakeholders at local, regional, national and international levels will develop and run the offered programs.

KoruMaya is a hyphen between past
and future. A design for unity.

What is KoruMaya’s long-term vision?
In accordance to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, KoruMaya will contribute to the sustainable development of Urfa Province by improving psycho-social wellbeing and socio-economic resilience of disadvantaged, at-risk and vulnerable children and youth as well as their caregivers. KoruMaya will, offer the community a safe space for kids and adults to interact, learn and play.

Why is KoruMaya relevant today?
Through leadership and coordination KoruMaya brings host and refugee populations in one welcoming place. The inequalities that stratify our society can have generational consequences and KoruMaya will build the resilience of the community. The project will benefit from the recent discovery of the nearby archeologic site, Göbekli Tepe [‘the hill of the navel’ in Turkish]. Considered ‘one of the most important archeological sites in the world,’ it is drawing people from around the world to the region. This major discovery is rewriting history not unlike KoruMaya’s mission to take the best practices of the past and incorporate them in the future.

Why is KoruMaya timely?
In a world impacted by Covid-19, Esra Özsüer believes everyday life in Urfa Province can improve through activity, creativity, mental and physical care, and nature to nurture the body and mind. At 64.12% more than half of Urfa’s population is young, Maya Foundation encapsulates a social entrepreneurial spirit that empowers the dominant demographic of Urfa Province, the youth. KoruMaya resonates with Urfa's past, and is central to its future prosperity.

“Feeling in the middle of things, at the place to and from which streets flow, where people come not to escape the city but to be inside it: This is usually what defines a successful square. It is a space around which the rest of a neighborhood or town or city tends to be organized.”
– Michael Kimmelman, "Culture: Power of the Place"

Welcome to KoruMaya.
A square in the shape of a circle.

Photo credits: PIN Architects, MayaVakfi, Hasan Almasi/unsplash, Christian Joudrey/unsplash