Aptullah Kuran, born in 1927 in İzmir, first attended Robert College in 1939 and, after graduating from this institution, continued his studies at Yale University, where he received a BA in 1952 and an MA in 1954, both in Architecture. Shortly after his return to Turkey, he worked in Tuğrul Devres’s and Vedat Dalokay’s offices. Kuran later opened his own architecture firm. He designed Robert College’s Perkins Hall (the Engineering Building), the Hospital of Tropical Diseases near the Yeşilköy Airport, the Özer Esen House in Erenköy, the Ögelman House in Tuzla and the Iranian Cultural Center in Ankara. He started his academic career at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in 1957 and in the early 1960s, he turned to the history of architecture.
After working as the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at METU from 1960–68, Kuran occupied the position of Assistant Turkish Head at Robert College High School in 1968. In 1971 Kuran became the founding rector of Boğaziçi University. Spending over the next eight years in that role, he contributed greatly to the institution’s development.
Before occupying the post of founding rector of Boğaziçi University, Aptullah Kuran worked at Robert College and the American College for Girls. Kuran explains the aim of the “Master Plan” for the American Colleges, which he prepared in 1962, as follows:
“A master plan has been prepared for American Colleges within the framework of past achievements and conceived goals. The goal is to bring existing facilities to the required level and thus to obtain campuses in the next ten to twenty years that will meet the increasing educational needs of Turkey and the Near East. In response to this, the Master Plan first deals with the existing facilities and then discusses the proposed developments in detail.”
Aptullah Kuran, who left a mark on everyone who had contact with him either as a historian of architecture, academic or administrator, died in 2001 as the result of a heart attack. The Aptullah Kuran Archive contains written materials such as lecture notes, letters and official and personal documents as well as visual materials such as photographs, sketches and drawings of cultural heritage artifacts from many locations in Turkey.
As a respected historian of architecture, Kuran was also a scientist who trained and inspired many students in the educational worlds of METU and Boğaziçi University. This reflected his discipline and enthusiasm about education and teaching to those in his surroundings. Among Aptullah Kuran’s works that combine history and human sciences with architectural vision, three important books on Seljuk and Ottoman architecture stand out: Anatolian Seljuk Medreses, Mosque in Early Ottoman Architecture and Architect Sinan. In these books, Kuran reveals the process of architectural development from the 13th century to the end of the classical period in terms of planning, mass and spatial characteristics. These interrelated books exemplify how he had enriched his knowledge starting from the early days of his academic life.
“Our teacher, who took very careful notes for each measured object, kept these notes in white envelopes that he carried around with him and compared and corrected the information he had already researched about the objects and then he put the minimized versions of the relievos that he would complete before his next trip together with other pictures into these envelopes.”
Günhan Danışman, Architecture Journal, 2002
"In the post-1980 period, I was a graduate student of Aptullah Kuran. By virtue of his playing an important role in the establishment of two of the best universities in Turkey, Mr. Kuran worked in an environment where all the universities were standardized by YÖK (the Council of Higher Education), so that those lesser institutions were to be upgraded, while those that were better would be downgraded. Mr. Kuran was really angry. I remember that in a symposium organized at AKM on the new procedures brought to the universities, he stated: 'Yes, many people were waiting at the gates of the universities in the '70s; this problem had to be solved, but not like this!' Aptullah Kuran was a man of the administration by nature. He was a fighter, an impressive and sincere man. He could not remain unresponsive to practices at odds with his principles. He fought against the forces that wanted the universities to fall into a rut.”
Ali Uzay Peker, Architecture Journal, 2002
“The researcher Aptullah Kuran was a superior scientist. No matter what the conditions in which he engaged in scientific research were, he kept his work in the foreground unconditionally, took the time to conduct regular research and made those surrounding him feel the privilege of the scientific research that he enjoyed.”
Günhan Danışman, Architecture Journal, 2002
"One of the foremost goals in the early work of Aptullah Kuran was the uncovering of architectural typologies based on formal and functional comparisons. His early books on Ottoman mosques and Seljuk's madrasas serve as examples of the importance Kuran gave to taxonomy. On the other hand, unlike most of his predecessors and contemporaries, the form, logic and approach that the Kuran uses to study typology of buildings is not the product of a search for the purity of Turkish tradition. In his works on medieval, Anatolian and Ottoman architecture, Kuran has taken into account the multi-religious and multi-ethnic cultural structures and has focused on the dialogue between various local traditions and new practices. Spatial and formal analyses have shaped the works of Kuran throughout his academic life. But Kuran has strayed away from the nationalist paradigms that foster formal methods, criticizing the essentialism included in these nationalist analysis."
Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu, Lucienne Thys-Şenocak, Logic of Architecture from Seljuks to Republic,
Çiğdem Kafesçioğlu, Lucienne Thys-Şenocak, Timur Kuran, Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, İstanbul, 2012