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Cem Sinan Kayatekin

About me

I was born in Ankara, Turkey, but I spent most of my life in the United States. Coming from a family of doctors, it seemed a natural path to pursue a pre-med track in university. It was however, not for me. Two years in, after some self-reflection, I entered architecture school. It was there that I experienced true intellectual passion for the first time in my life. Nowadays, rather than focus on a particularly grand end goal, I find that the words of Zefram Cochrane ring more and more true each day: “Don’t try to be a great man. Just be a man—and let history make its own judgements.”

SHEDDING THE MYSTERIES OF ARCHITECTURE

Professor Cem Sinan Kayatekin admits to having spent more time in a university setting than he initially imagined when he embarked on his undergrad studies. Architecture school was a unique educational adventure. It threw Professor Kayatekin deep into its subjects at a militaristic pace that was both exhilarating and draining, after which he emerged as a fully fledged architectural modernist. Later, after finishing his graduate studies, he metamorphosed into an anti-modernist deconstructivist.

With architecture being filled with so many “isms”, it is hard for Cem to keep track of his erstwhile affiliations. In any case, he pursued that highly prized Foucaultian obfuscation and chewed over the densest reading he could get his hands on. It was later on during his doctorate studies—and thanks to the humility of his advisor Howard Davis—that Cem began to shed the weight of all that architectural jargon and started to look at real, significant issues in architecture and urbanism.

This stripped-back approach is evident in Cem’s teaching style, too, and particularly when it comes to urban classes. During his own undergraduate years, this realm seemed complex, mysterious and untouchable. In his teaching, Cem aims to shed the mysteries of the city for the future architect, and open up the city for the future urbanist who wants to grapple with the city’s current complexities. He strives to show that the city—which we think is made of metal—is made of clay. Rather than set in stone, it remains malleable.

As a professor, the most important thing Cem has learned is to keep learning and think calmly. Cem is proud of IE University’s international diversity, and hopes that socioeconomic diversity will follow to make the educational experience truly unique. In addition to teaching, he and his wife also run a practice based out of Sri Lanka called Blue Dot Studio, where his wife takes the lead.

Since arriving in Segovia two and a half years ago, Cem started “A Pinch of Doubt”—a podcast that gives him an excuse to talk to interesting people for an extended period of time. He also spends his time in the realm of biomaterials. What started out as a way of making kombucha at home grew to developing a kombucha-based leather alternative. Cem has been playing with this leather-like, transparent material for two years, but still struggling to crack water resistance. And while some of his other hobbies may lose interest over time, painting is a pastime Cem always returns to.

When it comes to achieving success, Cem tries to think a few months in advance. Once he goes beyond that, life throws a curveball—a reminder that anything that far out is likely out of his control. That’s why his focus remains on having productive hours, days and weeks. And if he starts to stretch too far into the future, imagining grand futures, well, he always refers back to the Zefram Cochrane quote.

"I try to shed the mysteries of the city for the future architect and open up the city for the future urbanist who wants to grapple with the complexities of the city today."
Cem Sinan Kayatekin

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