Nazimî Yaver Yenal (1904-1987), a unique personality of 20th-century Turkish architecture, is a typical representative of the early Republic generation that epitomized idealist principles. Having spent his adolescence in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, Yenal was trained at the School of Fine Arts, particularly under the influence of his teacher Giulio Mongeri’s notion of eclecticism and graduated valedictorian from the school. Shaped by the consecutive competitions he won, his career evolved through the experience he gained in Paris and Berlin, where he was sent on a state scholarship extended as part of the culture policies of the early Republic years. He thrived and matured as an instructor at the Academy of Fine Arts, as he grew close with a handful of avant-garde German architects gathered in İstanbul. Described in his letters as being “much ahead” by Sedad Hakkı Eldem even in his student years, Yenal had talent beyond question and a career in architecture that set off quite successfully at first. Despite all that, virtually none of his designs were actually constructed. His unexecuted designs and the hopes they raised, along with disappointments, relate a powerful tale.
Eventually falling out of the official architectural discourse and forgotten in time, Yenal created for himself an alternative realm of architectural production comprised solely of drawings. His depictive fantasies and drawings are in flawless command of both the repertoire of classical architecture and modernism; they correspond to imaginary designs entirely free of the factors associated with construction and derive their strength from this freedom. Yenal’s unconstructed and unshared designs privatize architecture, a public domain of art. Shaped by imagination, his aesthetic is inevitably defined in connection with personal codes. In providing a real understanding of Yenal’s drawings, this subjectivity forces us to read not only into the designs, but their creator as well. With his avant-garde sketches remaining only on paper, Nazimî Yaver Yenal is perhaps the most important “paper architect” of Turkish architecture from the Republic era.