Széchenyi István University Professor strengthens Turkish relations

Dr Imre Tolnay, professor in the Department of Architectural Architecture at Széchenyi István University was invited to join the jury of a photo competition announced by the University of Kayseri in Turkey. He believes that such international collaborations can enrich teaching staff and students.

The strategic goal of Széchenyi István University is to increase its global visibility, which is also helped by the established and increasingly close collaborations with foreign universities. How did the contacts between you and the Turkish Erciyes University in Kayseri come about?

For years, we have had guest students from several partner institutions abroad, including the Erciyes University of Kayseri in Turkey, from where in the autumn of 2019, Filiz Sönmez, an associate professor of architecture, visited us and gave a lecture. Her lecture dealt with an interesting topic from environmental psychology, the homeliness of living spaces and the question of their role changes, based on her research drawn from the oral narratives of different generations. It is interesting that lately I have been dealing with a somewhat connected area, the atmosphere of space, the various empty spaces that have partly lost their function in photography, fine arts, as well as via my various spatial installations and in my earlier doctoral lecture in 2013. The Turkish professor invited me to speak at the international week planned for their university in the spring of 2020, and it turned out that they were also organizing a photo exhibition of my photos on this topic. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, which was just developing, the event was cancelled, so unfortunately I could not get to Kayseri, near which there are special ancient rock structures and underground spaces with a special atmosphere.

SZE_Tolnay_Imre_2021_10_Majer_Csaba_Jozsef (3).jpgProfessor Imre Tolnay (photo: Csaba József Májer)

The Turkish university “compensated” for the cancelled programme by inviting you to be a jury member for a photo contest. How did this turn out?

As we know and have experienced, last autumn and this year, new waves of the coronavirus epidemic came, so university collaborations were also forced online. Erciyes University in Kayseri organized an architectural photo competition focussing on the architectural monuments of the Ottoman Empire, and I was honoured to be the only foreigner invited to sit on its online jury. The subject of the photos taken by the students was the architectural environment of the past and of today, as well as its relationship with people. These images, although born of a culture different from ours in many respects, naturally carry and transmit many universal values.

What did you talk about in the online results announcement of the competition?

That it was interesting and a great honour to take part in and judge a competition to photograph the memories of this rich architectural culture producing such great images. I said that culture, including architecture and the visual arts, is a gentle activity that builds in every sense, bringing each other together, creating lasting values, and also the fact that our Hungarian language fortunately has its own word for photograph –  “fénykép” (“light-image”) –  which conveys well the role of images made of light, showing the values of our environment.

What do you think about the role of international university collaborations?

During the announcement of the results, I also talked about the importance of further cooperation in the near future, which can be expanded with other similar, new, mutually beneficial, creative and educational joint projects. The Turkish partners have expressed this intention several times. The above-mentioned region, Cappadocia, is very rich in art history monuments and unique layers of architectural history and by becoming familiar with these, the space-creating skills of both teachers and students can thus be formed and enriched. Turkish students can do the same, by getting to know our architectural-cultural past and present. The rediscovery of our cultures together can enrich us. We are trying to develop similar relationships in the future with other universities.

Széchenyi István University cooperates with nine Turkish institutions                           

Thanks to the internationalization efforts of Széchenyi István University, co-operation with Turkey, at the gates of East and West, and therefore extremely important, has significantly increased in recent years, as we learned from Dr Eszter Lukács, Vice-Rector for Educational Affairs. The Győr institution has so far established relations with nine Turkish partner universities - in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Kayseri - covering six faculties. Since 2016, Széchenyi University has received 35 Turkish students within the framework of the Stipendium Hungaricum Higher Education Scholarship Programme and the Erasmus+ programme.

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