Esra Akcan

Director, Cornell Institute for European Studies
Esra Akcan


Esra Akcan is an associate professor in the Department of Architecture. Her research on modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism foregrounds the intertwined histories of Europe and West Asia.

Aksan's book Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey and the Modern House offers a new way to understand the global movement of architecture that extends the notion of translation beyond language to visual fields. It advocates a commitment to a new culture of translatability from below and in multiple directions for truly cosmopolitan ethics and global justice. Her book Turkey: Modern Architectures in History (with Sibel Bozdoğan) is part of a series that aims at an inclusive survey of modern world architecture and is the first volume in any language to cover the entire 20th century in Turkey.

Akcan’s new book Open Architecture: Migration, Citizenship and the Urban Renewal of Berlin-Kreuzberg (forthcoming in 2018) defines open architecture as the translation of a new ethics of hospitality into design process. It exemplifies different inclinations towards open architecture (or the lack thereof) during the urban renewal of Berlin’s immigrant neighborhood, by giving voice not only to the established and cutting-edge architects who were invited to build public housing there, but also to noncitizen residents.

Akcan has also authored over one hundred articles in scholarly books and professional journals in multiple languages on critical and postcolonial theory, modern and contemporary architecture, diasporas in Europe, architectural photography, immigration, translation, globalization, and global history. 

Akcan received awards and fellowships from the Graham Foundation, American Academy in Berlin, UIC, Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin (Transregional Studies Forum), Clark Institute, Getty Research Institute, Canadian Center for Architecture, CAA, Mellon Foundation, DAAD, and KRESS/ARIT. 

Before coming to Cornell, she taught at UI-Chicago, Humboldt University in Berlin, Columbia University, New School, and Pratt Institute in New York, and METU in Ankara. She has also participated in exhibitions as an artist by carrying her research beyond writing to visual media. Akcan was educated as an architect in Turkey and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University.