Layers of cross-cultural inspiration at the OAU campus, four reliefs by Valentin Gies: ‘stairs and structure’, ‘the wall as a canvas’, ‘the Island in the forest’, ‘social utopias’. © Max Hart Nibbrig, 2022.
Campus Utopias

A visual re-reading





Modernist university campuses, cross-cultural influences, campus utopias, creative analysis


“Campus Utopias: A Visual Re-reading” describes a multidisciplinary graduate course conducted collaboratively by TU Delft and METU Ankara’s Architecture Departments in 2022. The research course focused on the key urban and architectural features of selected campus projects, examining how the modernist architects engaged in these designs were able to use them as a basis for the experimentation of new educational-residential models for living.
This research paper explores the formal aspects of these campuses and their architectural significance. It recognizes the diverse geographies where the modern architectural movement took root and the active role played by political, economic, and cultural agents in shaping these projects. Working with local agents and situating modern architecture within its surrounding infrastructure and landscape helped master architects to integrate local architectural values and new building technologies.
The article presents three case studies: Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, the University of Baghdad in Iraq, and the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. These campuses were designed and built after World War II, representing the aspirations of newly installed governments. The article highlights the architectural approaches that incorporated environmental considerations and cultural inspirations and the socio-economic considerations in each project.
The research methodology involves a comparative analysis of the campuses, focusing on their formal qualities and in-between spaces. The students involved in the graduate research course utilized various media and techniques of representation, including 3D digital drawings, models, collages, and physical reliefs. The work results were presented in the form of an exhibition titled “Campus Utopias” at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment in April 2022. The student projects in this photo essay show the diversity of scale and make visible the similarities and differences in the overall campus design approaches of the three projects. The major focus is on the in-between spaces and the outcomes of the multidisciplinary work of architects, engineers, landscape architects, and artists.

How to Cite

Savaş Sargın, A., Gramsbergen, E., & Söylev, Y. (2023). Campus Utopias: A visual re-reading. Docomomo Journal, (69), 106–113.





Workshops and Exhibitions


Author Biographies

Ayşen Savaş Sargın, Middle East Technical University

Graduated in architecture from Middle East Technical University (METU) and The Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL). She completed her PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and has conducted courses on various modes of architectural representation. She has been involved in academic research, exhibition design, and museum projects, collaborating with institutions worldwide. For her work, Savaş has received numerous national and international awards and fellowships, including the AIA Architectural Award and the Getty ‘Keeping it Modern’ Grant for the Faculty of Architecture Building of METU. Her innovative display theme for the Turkish Pavilion at the 2010 World EXPO in Shanghai earned her the Silver Medal.

Esther Gramsbergen, Delft University of Technology

Graduated in architecture from Delft University of Technology in 1989. She has worked for various architectural firms, including Karelse van der Meer Architecten and ArchitectenCie. Since 1999 she has been employed as an assistant professor in architectural design at Delft University of Technology’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, and since 2009 as an editor of the journal OverHolland. In 2014, she obtained her PhD at Delft for a dissertation entitled Kwartiermakers in Amsterdam: ruimtelijke transformatie onder invloed van stedelijke instellingen, 1580-1880. Her current research focuses on the role of institutions, such as universities, in urban transformation processes.

Yagiz Söylev, Delft University of Technology

Graduated in architecture from Delft University of Technology in 2018. He works at the Department of Architecture at TU Delft and is involved in various research projects including the OverHolland Journal. His research interests involve global knowledge transfer networks in the post-war period from the decolonial perspective. Söylev was the associate curator of the Pavilion of Turkey, at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018. His work has been displayed in international exhibitions like Istanbul Design Biennial, Dutch Design Week, and Shenzhen UABB. He has practiced as an


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