Celile Berk Butka was born in Istanbul in 1915 and was the first female engineer-architect to graduate from Istanbul Technical University in 1942. As an assistant at the same university, she conducted her master thesis within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Planning between 1946-1947. Although the curriculum of architectural faculties in the Republic of Turkey did not include modern architecture and its essential topics in the 1940s, she became the master student of Professor Alvar Aalto and completed her thesis entitled, “A Tuberculosis Sanatorium for Istanbul Turkey” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Then, she returned to Istanbul Technical University and continued her academic career as the Assistant Professor between 1950-1958.
Following her graduation, she participated in several architectural design competitions in the Republic of Turkey, such as the Canakkale People’s House competition (with Haydar Yücelen), the Housing Project competition in Adana (“Adana Numune Evleri”), Odemis Urban Planning competition (with Kemal Ahmet Aru and Orhan Safa) and the Istanbul Radio House competition (with Haydar Yücelen).
Celile Berk married Kemal Butka (1907-1997), an Albanian architect and politician. They established their private architectural office in Istanbul in 1948, where they conducted their practice until 1958 and participated in the Anadolu Club-Buyukada Hotel architectural design competition in the Republic of Turkey in 1959.
Then, moving back to the US with Kemal Butka, Celile Berk Butka pursued her professional abroad from 1959 to 1972. In the beginning of her professional career in the US, she undertook working drawings and details of some interior design projects at Cunningham-Limp & Co. and at Stephen-Bangs Associates in Detroit. From the 1960s to 1972, she worked on many large-scale and technical architectural projects at John Graham & Company, at Abbott, Merkt & Co. Architects Engineers and at Kahn and Jacob Architects, including: One Astor Plaza in New York City, Riker’s Island Women’s Correctional Institute in New York, New York Telephone Building at Avenue of Americas and 42 Street, American Airlines Building at JFK International Airport (Gate 11), Equitable Building in Syracuse, New York, Roure-Depont Parfumerie Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, Easton-Data Center in Easton, Pennsylvania, Gimbels Department Store in Pittsburgh, Macy’s Department Store in Colonie, New York, Woodward & Loundop Department Store in Alexandria, Virginia, Hutzler’s Service Building in Baltimore, Maryland, Westchester Plaza in New Rochelle, New York, Moorestown Shopping Center in Moorestown, New Jersey, the May Co. Department Store in Mentor, Ohio, Yorkdale Shopping Center in Toronto, Ontario, Kaufman Department Store in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, American Life Insurance Co. Office Building in Karachi, Pakistan.
She lived and passed away in New York City on March 6th, 1984 and was buried in Istanbul. Her personal archive was donated to the Women’s Library and Information Center Foundation in Istanbul. She has two Turkish books entitled Sanatoryumlar (Sanatoriums) and Konya Evleri (Konya Houses), published by Istanbul Technical University in 1950 and in 1951.
Her Architectural Design Competition Projects:
Her Architectural Projects (in the US):
(she worked on these projects as a project team member).
NOTE: An academic research project on Celile Berk Butka and her practice history is currently being conducting by Dr. Meral Ekincioglu at MIT. MIT is an academic sponsor of this academic research project and it is not currently open to public access. The content of this text is based on Dr. Meral Ekincioglu’s research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Archive and the American Institute of Architects, Archive.
Nancy Hadley, Manager, Archives and Records, the American Institute of Architects, e-mail to Meral Ekincioglu, July 24, 2014.
(for Archnet: Celile Berk Butka’s résumé, the chronological project-building list were sent by Nancy Hadley to Meral Ekincioglu via e-mail, on July 24, 2014.).
Berk, Celile. Konya Evleri. Istanbul: Istanbul Technical University Publications, 1951.
Berk, Celile. Sanatoryumlar. Istanbul: Istanbul Technical University Publications, 1950.
Berk, Celile. “a Tuberculosis Sanatorium for Istanbul Turkey.” Master thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 1947.