Vehbi Koç Award of 2014 goes to Prof. Zeynep Çelik
Founded as Turkey’s first private foundation 45 years ago, Vehbi Koç Foundation gives out the “Vehbi Koç Award” annually to individuals or institutions for their outstanding contributions to the fields of culture, education and healthcare, respectively and this year’s recipient is Prof. Zeynep Çelik in the field of “Culture”. A distinguished professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture and Design, Prof. Çelik is among the first female architectural historians that have studied and researched Ottoman urban and cultural history, as well as the history of cities under the Ottoman rule. In his speech during the award ceremony, Mustafa V. Koç, Chairman of Koç Holding, stated that Prof. Zeynep Çelik has achieved significant breakthrough in Ottoman history with her works.
Among the three candidates nominated by the Selection Committee headed by Prof. Şevket Pamuk, Vehbi Koç Foundation Board of Directors chose Prof. Zeynep Çelik as the recipient of the 13th Vehbi Koç Award for her remarkable work in the field of culture and history. Mustafa V. Koç, Chairman of Koç Holding, presented the award to Prof. Zeynep Çelik who will also receive $100,000 as a financial reward.
In the speech he delivered at the 13th Vehbi Koç Commemoration and Award Ceremony, Mustafa V. Koç, Chairman of Koç Holding, pointed out that numerous individuals and institutions in Turkey, like the Vehbi Koç Foundation, strive everyday to add value to the society, and continued “It has become the principle of our Foundation to ensure that such exemplary work is recognized and promoted.” Adding that the Vehbi Koç Award is given out annually in one of Vehbi Koç Foundation’s three main fields of activity, education, culture, and healthcare, respectively, and that Prof. Zeynep Çelik has been chosen for this year’s award for her invaluable work in the field of culture, Mustafa V. Koç said: “Prof. Çelik is a historian that has contributed immensely to the Ottoman urban, cultural and intellectual history in the last thirty years; and while doing that she has broken the introverted nature of the Ottoman historiography, which it was often confined to, and opened it to a much wider audience.”
“This is the eighteenth anniversary of the passing of Vehbi Koç, the founder of our group. It is also the thirteenth year that we are giving out the Vehbi Koç Award that we have established to recognize and honor individuals and institutions with outstanding contributions to the development of Turkey and Turkish people. We remember Vehbi Koç every single day. This Group is his legacy and carries his mark in each and every corner. Love for our country, our hard work, the importance we place on institutionalization, superior work ethics, always striving to outperform ourselves, the principle of doing good for our country and for humankind, these are all Vehbi Koç’s legacy and they light our path.”
Mustafa V. Koç said that while preparing his speech, he remembered Vehbi Koç even more in these turbulent times that we are all going through, and continued: “We asked ourselves, ‘What would Vehbi Koç recommend if he were alive?’ If Vehbi Koç were here today, I think he would say ‘Hold tight to your business. Don’t stray from what you know is right. Hardships come and go. What’s important is the business and the values that keep this business together’.”
Mustafa V. Koç: “We have always been interested and involved in our country’s issues with objectivity, and we will continue to be so in the future too.”
Mentioning that despite many developments in Turkey, some issues and weaknesses sadly tend to repeat themselves, Mustafa V. Koç added: “As a developing country, we have experienced many ebbs and flows both in democracy and economy during this journey. It is highly probable that we will face such challenges in the future as well. In order to minimize the implications of these fluctuations, we have taken universal values and the principles of institutionalization as our anchor, and we have continued to work and do our best. While doing that we have never entered into the daily political debates and always remained objective. However, this country belongs to us and it is our duty to protect this beautiful country that is the pillar of our strength. We have always been interested and involved in our country’s issues with objectivity, and we will continue to be so in the future too.”
Mustafa V. Koç: “We will always protect and be faithful to the values that our founder has entrusted us with.”
Mustafa V. Koç pointed out that in his memoirs titled “Hayat Hikayem” (1973), the late Vehbi Koç talked in his own modest style about all of his achievements, which seemed impossible to undertake in a lifetime, his challenges and successes, as if they were very easily accomplished. He continued, “But you know that there are months and sometimes years of work, discussions, and negotiation processes behind each success. One of the best examples of this is the fact that he worked relentlessly for twenty years to create Vehbi Koc Foundation, which as an institution has been serving our country for 45 years and which brings us together today. As I remember our founder with love and respect, I would like to emphasize that we will always protect and be faithful to the values that our founder has entrusted us with.”
Prof. Zeynep Çelik: An Architectural Historian with immense contributions to Ottoman, urban and cultural history in the last 30 year
A short film including sections from Prof. Çelik’s life was shown during the award ceremony; in her acceptance speech Prof. Zeynep Çelik said that she was very honored to receive the 13th Vehbi Koç Award. “My generation has played an important role in expanding the breadth of architectural history, in stretching and pulling it toward unexpected directions, and approaching from a critical point of view. I am quite proud to be considered a part of this movement. A special contribution that my works have provided is to underline intercultural relationships. I believe I have established that the late period Ottoman Empire is an important part of modernity, which is always attributed to the West. This is now a widely recognized phenomenon.”
After graduating from Istanbul Technical University, Department of Architecture with B. Arch. in 1975, she received her M. Arch. degree from RiceUniversity, and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. In 1991 she started teaching at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Department of Architecture and Design, where she continues as distinguished professor, while she carries on her studies and research.
She published her first book “The Remaking of Istanbul: Portrait of an OttomanCity in the Nineteenth Century” in 1986 for which she won the Institute of Turkish Studies Book Award. The book is considered the first significant and systematic work on the urban architecture in the Ottoman period. Prof. Zeynep Çelik was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa degree by the BosporusUniversity in 2013 for her unique and pioneering work in the fields of Ottoman urban, cultural and intellectual history.