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In its vision, architecture and transformations, KoruMaya is a serpentine not a mass structure

  • Its design seeks to engender a sense of community the in heart of Urfa
  • KoruMaya is a space to be outside of the home with daycare and a sports center
  • Free services for people of all gender, obedience and ethnicities to backgrounds and identities
  • A place to gather for administrative, legal and social support
  • A city farm to grow healing plants from local provenance
  • A community kitchen to cook regional cuisine together
  • An arena to meet up, exchange, play and learn things
  • An urban village to ignite togetherness
  • A space to belong

Like a seed,
it will grow alongside the people
engaging with it.

At its core, KoruMaya bands together a consortium of NGOs offering free support in mental health and psychosocial services, legal aid, protection, education, livelihoods and social services to its surrounding target groups under protection threats. KoruMaya centralizes what is currently scattered across Urfa all in one place. For families, KoruMaya hosts free childcare, an outdoor playground, a sport center and an organic plantation.

Millions of Syrians have fled their homes since civil war began in 2011. Syria’s immediate neighbors have taken in most of those fleeing across borders and no country has done more to shelter this homeless, shell-shocked population than Turkey. Syrians make up 21% of Urfa’s population and while Turks have displayed solidarity towards refugees there is hosting fatigue and increased societal tensions. KoruMaya will be a safe space for everyone in the neighborhood to connect and support social cohesion.

Turkey continues to host the largest number of refugees worldwide, with close to 4.1 million refugees, including 3.7 million Syrians and nearly 400,000 asylum-seekers and refugees of other nationalities. Turkish legislation provides people in need of international protection with a broad range of rights upon registration with the authorities. But the main challenges remain the pressure on national resources and the availability of services for refugees and host communities. [UNHCR]

KoruMaya is a green urban architecture for the people

In intention and vision, the project reverses construction trends experienced in cities worldwide–shopping malls, high-street fashion, and armored-glass office towers have increasingly eaten up urban land and its public spaces. KoruMaya pairs a 21st century answer to people’ rights for a city hub beyond commerce. KoruMaya is a space to access, organize, rest, play and learn–a space where nature, social care and knowledge nurture bodies and minds.

Urfa today calls for spaces where the youth can be active and interactive. The Southern region of Turkey is suffering from an increase of cultural clashes and violence, drug abuse and domestic violence. With a demographic dominated by youth, a safe space to learn, rest, train and interact is key to individual’s development and social harmony within the urban fabric. For young women looking for a career outside of traditional roles, KoruMaya offers a way to learn marketable skills.

KoruMaya shares site-specific knowledge and services not accessible in such form anywhere in the region

Currently administrative services available in Urfa are scattered across town, and the socially, financially and culturally disenfranchised population requires special consideration about what the need and how to make it accessible tailored to their needs and making services accessible. People might need guidance through legal documents, others might require translation services; while financially stretched families might be looking for food assistance, skill building classes, and free childcare.

When diverse populations with limited resources are scattered in places not designed for cohabitation, illegitimated fears, segregation and the risk of rejection grows.

KoruMaya offers the region a fresh beginning, a change in narrative and a sustainable future in which people can actively take part.

Key services

Thematic areas of consideration
  • Livelihoods: Decent work, employment, VET, entrepreneurship, horticulture
  • Health: Mental Health and Psychosocial Services, green therapy
  • Education: Academy/training center
  • Social connectedness: Sports center and physical fitness programs, social cohesion, recreational activities, arts- and photography-based activities
  • Protection: child protection, prevention of gender-based violence, empowering women
  • Sustainable production and consumption: water efficiency, solar power, waste management
Maya Foundation will focus on healing therapies and mental health expertise for trauma rehabilitation. A digital library will house a collection of mental health resources to serve a worldwide audience. Regionally KoruMaya will seat at the forefront of mental health disciplines, and in the future, online training to reach wider audiences.

Its Research Center will host visiting academics and showcase a wealth of resources in one database system. Built within the geographical confluence where massive populations fleeing conflict carries the risk of passing trauma from generation to generation. These resources serve to expand knowledge and serve diasporas and vulnerable local populations who are too often sidetracked as ‘the others’ and facing discrimination. A free space for social belonging and cohesion through activities, the architecture is designed to innovate. Like the experiences shared by Michael Murphy, architecture for and by the people is inclusive and serves the people it created for.

KoruMaya is a living organism for belonging, connectiveness and unity

The tiny and modular shapes of its architecture respond to social needs with the capacity to scale up depending on its inhabitant’s needs. The center will be able to incorporate a myriad of programs and people. Trauma can be overcome in a safe space that allows people to revolve around a community they identify with. A space where people can own and share stories. The feeling of belonging and being wanted protects against a future of self-harm and domestic abuse.

KoruMaya is a forward-thinking, active and inclusive example of social architecture reminiscent of tribal village, the Greek arena, and the Roman piazza. Michael Murphy in his TED Talk “Architecture That’s Built to Heals” speaks of architecture with a role to play for the people it addresses to:

“Why was it that the best architecture–all beautiful and visionary and innovative–is also so rare, and seems to serve so very few? And more to the point. With all this creative talent what more could we do?”

Salih Küçüktuna & Mert Sezer / PIN Architects share a similar vision:

“The governor is working hard in Urfa to fight back child abuse, drug abuse, and sectarian violence. KoruMaya, the center will be serving more than two thousand kids. If parents bring in two thousand kids, they will all mix. The architecture itself can help them communicate. It doesn’t lock people in closed places. The site is composed of 40 different buildings. The Pods contain a fireplace in the middle. Our direction was to favor small modules to be built like LEGO, each adjustable to different functions. Maybe it will become a small housing village or a university or morph into social enterprises run by teenagers. Our aim was to build a modular space for the space itself to be appropriated, shared and playful. Sharing is the way we learn in the 21th century. And how amazing would it be to see the tiny architecture matching with nature for farming and life in nature to grow in the heart of the city.”

For the government of the region, KoruMaya is a unique occasion to city planning with active contribution by the people the site will serve most. A free space for social belonging and cohesion through activities, the architecture is designed to ignite people’ provenance, multidisciplinary skills and cultures. Alike the experiences shared by Michael Murphy, architecture for and by the people can come off the ground inclusively with the people it is aimed for.

Photo credits: PIN Architects, MayaVakfi, Joshua Lanzarini/unsplash