AKYAKA WILL NOT FORGET NAİL ÇAKIRHAN
(By Teoman Ünüsan - Translation: Bahar Suseven)
came to Akyaka in 1968, some months after I took my position as
District Governor of Ula. People regarded him with misgivings; he's
been to prison, he's a communist, he's one of those, who've fled to
Russia with Nazım (Hikmet, Note of Translator), they said about him.
Yet, it were these the same people that acknowledged him first as
the honest and good man that he was. The fact that he did not talk
politics at all gave him an air of standing above the political
agenda, gained him respect. With the decrees of the 12th March
(1970's coup d'état, Note of Translator) began a time of communist
hunts in Turkey. Most district and province governors and chiefs of
police had the leftists in their administrative district arrested
and imprisoned. During these times Nail Çakırhan kept quite to
himself, I for my part never left his side and stood by him. This
country had done him wrong; this injustice should not go on any
longer. Nevertheless there were still denunciations. Like that he
had an antenna hidden in the chimney of his newly built house, with
which he communicated with Russia. I always replied that I visited
his premises every day and that there was no antenna or the like of
it. For 2, 3 years we met nearly every day and talked a lot. During
this time I had the chance to get to him very well.
Books and articles have been written about Nail Çakırhan, TV and
other documentaries- none of them really appealed to me, they were
all quite dry. In none of these works I could find the real Nail
Çakırhan. They remained patchwork, with no enthusiasm, none of them
captured his real spirit. Halet Çambel (Nail Çakırhan's wife, Note
of Translator) always says that I know him best. I expressed
something similar in a short poem, I once wrote about him.
I, anyhow think that it is a difficult task to write about Nail
Çakırhan. To understand him, to feel what he felt, one had to spend
a lot of time with him; one had to be sensitive and intelligent.
I know that it probably makes no difference to you, when I say that
Nail Çakırhan was the head as well as the servant of the
Nail-Halet-Union. Therefore it is impossible to write a book only
about Nail Çakırhan. Just as a book written about Halet Çambel will
have to describe Nail Çakırhan's life, too. I can hear you utter,
that I am possible out of my mind.
Nail Çakırhan was hard- minded, but had soft sides as well; was
stubborn while capable of adaptation; democratic, at the same time
fanatically adverse in case he didn't like something or someone.
Moreover the decision to like or to oppose someone was always made
during the first minutes of acquaintance. Stupidity was an attitude
he did not have any tolerance for. He didn't have patience for
stupid people and could become seriously and lastingly upset about
He expressed his views about Turkey in a very extraordinary manner,
which separated him clearly from the masses. Because he did not read
nonsensical books and watched no useless TV programmes like most of
us, his spirit was pure. Therefore he could judge events objectively
and express his opinions about them clearly and simply.
What made Nail Çakırhan great? Without doubt him somehow creating
Akyaka with his architectonical projects and their realisation.
Where all over Turkey towns have been covered with ugly buildings,
Akyaka stayed the only place different. A site should unite the
spirit of its past and accentuate it with cement, iron and lime. In
Anatolia this spirit has been developed by the spirit of the Lykiens
and the Hittites.
When someone approached Nail Çakırhan with an idea for a building,
he immediately started to sketch on whatever was at hand. And while
he was sketching the idea took form, became tangible. It is
difficult to explain this. Like a poet, a painter whose creation
still floats on the horizon, yet transform itself already in his
thoughts, his work, too materialised and he himself became
increasingly agitated. He never thought commercially. He has been
the most honest man I've ever known, a real artist. His project
plans were always very determined. He never made concessions; the
beauty, materialising in his thoughts was always realised
stubbornly. If for example one indicated that the doors of a project
would be to narrow to transport a fridge or the like through them,
his answer would be "Then break the walls", but the doors would not
Architect or no architect, this topic has been discussed continually
in our architect circles; that the Aga Khan Award for Architecture
had been given to someone who was not an architect has been watched
with many reservations. We have indeed great architect and city
planners. But no one else has imprinted a whole town with his ideas
and plans, like he did. They stayed mere buildings, mere projects.
What did make Nail Çakırhan so different was exactly that.
Akyaka's first master plan has been assigned by the General
Provincial Bank. At this point I have been the bank's general
director. For the realisation of the plan I commissioned the best
architects and ordered them to go to Akyaka and cooperate with Nail
Çakırhan. Like that the master plan really materialised under Nail
Çakırhan's supervision. That has made him very happy. This sense of
fulfilment inspired him to direct his thoughts away from planning
one single house, but rather plan a town.
All of these made Nail Çakırhan's building sites to ateliers, to
schools…hence him influencing a good number of young architects.
They acquired from him whatever they could. If only they would have
acquired his stubbornness and determination, too… If only they would
not have yielded to socio economical impacts… However his principles
did make an impression and lead to Akyaka not being totally
destroyed. Besides that he did lead a never ceasing fight for the
conservation of Akyaka.
That he could spend the last days of his life where he originated
from has been made possible by Hamdi Yücel.
We had to say goodbye to Nail Çakırhan on a day in autumn.
I have been at his side during his last days. "I know that there is
no way out of here!" he said to me.
But what really touched me most has been the harmony of his clear
spirit with the pureness and vitality of his expressions, the manner
in which he called: "-Halet... Halet... Halet...“reassuring himself
that she was by his side. This sound, the words and intonation
expressed all of his feelings. The impotence and anger towards his
illness and death and his love for Halet Çambel…
Akyaka should not forget his creator. If ever again we plant Nail
Çakırhan's statue, the statue of Halet Çambel should be planted
beside it, both hand in hand.