Friday, May 2nd 2014: Epheses + Beach


If the bus that I stepped on at 7:15am in Izmir were a time machine it would have taken me on the longest temporal journey of my life. I traveled to the 10th Century BC to Ephesus. The magic bus managed to pull up before the hordes of visitors. Stepping off of the bus I felt a bit disoriented. In my head I was imagining what I would see, but I really didn’t know what I would feel. I wanted to feel something.  As I walked through the space I continually tried to feel, I felt the stone, I felt the heat, I felt, I felt, I felt awkward.

What am I doing here? Did I just walk out of a dark lecture hall and into a projector slide of the Library of Celsus? Still in the early morning daze of that 7:30am class, all of the library’s ornament shook my body, saying, “Hey stupid, wake up, remember me?” At this moment I found myself in so many places and times. I was in the moment, but then in a ramshackle version of the 10th Century BC, but then 3 years into the past trying to remember everything my enthusiastic professor had said about this magnificent peace of human ingenuity. While people trickled in and out of the library, snapping their photos, I just wanted to be alone. I couldn’t comprehend the complexity of the space that I was in.

I later realized that the awkwardness of my feelings came from the fact that the entire site appears that it should just be strictly enjoyed. Signs told me what I should know, so did the confident tour guide next to me, until I realized they were speaking German to a fantastic pack of tourists. I just felt extremely exposed to an unknown world, and that everything I should believe was spelled out right in front of me, yet I was so confused about it all. I felt a sense of culture shock from another time.

I appreciated that journey very much because of my discomfort. After my moments in the library, it was as if I stepped into a museum, walked up to my favorite painting and put my hands all over it. I then experienced it for everything that I could. I then continued confused, yet jovially through the rest of the exhibit realizing that what I was trying to understand was centuries beyond me. This space is here, for me, now. Space and time can be funny that way.



Exploring the ruins at Ephesos is like continuous feedback loop in one’s head where you are launched through time, ping-ponging between the various periods memorialized by earthquakes and power structures: all captured, memorialized, and reconstructed. The reconstruction, however, is generally not with the intent of simulating the exact program that existed as the intent of the original construction. Often, the reconstruction is an amalgamation intended to serve as education and entertainment, with a glimpse into the past, orchestrated to highlight a specific window of time.

While touring the Terrace Houses at Ephesos, I couldn’t help but wonder: What was it actually like to live here? As a tourist on a clear morning in May, I was sheltered by a modern super-structure: light-weight translucent fins hanging off of a simple steel-frame, which was specifically designed to keep rain and direct sunlight from further changing the ruins at nature’s pace. This hillside multi-family housing complex dates back to the 6th or 7th century B.C., and was designed to respond to the adjacent Curetes Street which was lined with tabernae, or shops. The linear path of the tourist entering the Terrace Houses contrasts the radial route I imagine was used by the original inhabitants. We ascended through rooms on an elevated glass platform with railings, juxtaposed over the dusty stone structure. The apartments are situated around a central courtyard, and each had its own private entrance. Our path wound through units, the experience curated by specific focal points generally associated with surface textures. In one room, the current reconstruction and renovation of the original matchbook-marble panels is highlighted, while in another the wall-paintings (possibly completed by the original inhabitants) are the focus.

While these components of materiality and craft are interesting as historical archaeology, I was more intrigued by this new architectural orchestration that had been designed here. The roof structures of the units have not survived, exposing the rooms as a new spatial entity. I imagine that with six families living within close quarters, sharing a combined water supply and sewage system, adjacent to the busiest commercial street in Ephoses, that daily life here was not the serene, introspective, nor the quiet experience that I was having. Undoubtedly, it was the opposite. Noisy neighbors, smells of cooking, running water, and a constant movement of people, objects, animals, and waste were probable characteristics of this place. The rooms were probably cavernous and dark, with little natural light penetrating the thick masonry walls.

It is also likely that the original inhabitants had a completely different concept of the formal layout of this place. Since being in Istanbul, I have noticed that I have not needed to use maps or navigate the city by street names and detailed directions. This is because traversing the topography and changing ground textures creates a stronger memory of path than spatial or visual organization. How did a resident of this community navigate the complex? What were their landmarks? What were the changing components and textures that occurred over the lifetime of one resident, or family?

Had there never been a lapse in program for this place since its inception, would there still be intrigue surrounding this historical site? I doubt this. This place had to be buried, encapsulated, forgotten, and unearthed in order for significant value (and internationally-funded campaigns) to have accumulated. Interpretations are layered upon the existing.  The ‘Cubist modern architectural collage’ at the Memmius Monument  is a prime example of this. I don’t believe that any sort of pragmatic authenticity currently exists at Ephoses, but this is likely the exact reason that we are able to tour it today.



I found the giant outdoor theater at Epheses to be the most attractive element. The theatre is located in the center of the ancient city. The mountains enclose the theatre and create a unique contrast between ancient ruins and natural landscape. The theatre is comprised of a big half circle shaped stage surrounded by a huge round structure with around 120 stairs from bottom to top. People looked so tiny within the giant theatre. Undoubtedly, the theatre can hold 25,000 people. Sitting on the stairs of the theatre, it truly gave me the feeling of magnificence. We got to Epheses early, so there were not a lot of other visitors. I sat on a stair half way to the top. I felt the silence, heat of stones under sunshine, birds’ chirping and contemplated the past prosperity of the city.

The whole structure was built solely with thousands of stones. Despite this, the place doesn’t look boring at all. In contrast, those stones show the history of more than 3000 years of weathering. They have been through innumerable seasonal changes, environmental changes and imperial changes. But it is still there; silently witnessing the present and future. Also, each of those stones has different shapes and different sizes. I can tell the huge amount of time and labor spent to make this theatre 3000 years ago. To me, the theater is a miracle.