A Taste of Istanbul: Sketching Connections in Turkey and Denmark

Last summer Adel Vaughn and 12 other landscape architecture students from the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design explored two very different 21st century cities: Istanbul, Turkey and Copenhagen, Denmark. For Adel, a sketchbook assignment became much more than an exercise in observation – it helped her to connect and bond with locals.

Sketching Connections  
Since much of studying landscape architecture in the built environment is done through observation and documentation of form, structure, physical elements and overall character of a space, the sketchbook acted as our medium for this documentation. The sketchbook went everywhere with me – every day, for hundreds of miles. I would normally start the drawings on-site and get as far as I could, then finish it out later while sitting at a cafe or restaurant.


A group of Turkish kids stopped by when I was drawing at Ephesus. I was telling them in the little, broken Turkish I knew: “I’m a student studying landscape architecture,” “I don’t really know much Turkish, but I’m learning,” “I’m from America” (when they asked), and “Thank you!” (when they told me the drawings were very nice).

Drawing at some of the cafes led to unique and unforgettable interactions with the locals, because they would give us insight on the symbols we were drawing, tell us a story about the sites we were drawing, or ask about the sketchbooks. There was one cafe in particular that my friend and I went to many times – we became friends with the guys who worked there, and they would even give us free çay (Turkish tea) and dessert. It was actually a tearful goodbye on our last night in Istanbul because we had grown close to the people there in such a short amount of time. We ended up doing some paintings for them to keep so that we all could remember those times.

Courtney_Adel_Turkey_Falls in Galata

This is Courtney and I with Omar, our very kind and outgoing waiter at Falls in Galata Cafe. We sat at this exact table almost every time we came – right on the edge of the patio watching what was happening on the tiny adjacent street.

The Sketches


Click to see Adel’s sketchbook at full size.

The water spigot, to me, is a symbol for Istanbul. They were all over the city – many right outside mosques where people would wash their hands and feet before entering, and others in seemingly random places. The one that I painted was in Gulhane Park near Topkapı Palace. It was such a beautiful element in the park, carrying a rich sense of history while embracing the newly blooming, bright red roses surrounding it. I actually put the final touches on this painting later in the summer while doing research in Berlin, so the memory of this one spans Europe!

waterspigot       bluedoor

The blue door is one of my favorites.  I love painting things that are clearly weathered and worn, and this door captured the heavy use of the while building in an area of Istanbul called Beşiktaş.  I just loved the character and colors in the door. Each drawing carries a meaning and a many memories for me.

Adel Vaughn’s summer studies and research were supported by Honors College Traditional Study Abroad and Travel Grants.

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