Onaranlar Kulübü (Fixers Club), based in Istanbul, Turkey, puts playfully artistic touches on public spots, improving the lives of ordinary citizens and giving them hope for a better future.
Dogukan Gungor is an industrial engineer by training, but for the last eight years, he has been working as a marketing communications director for a tech company specialising in 3D printers. He and two friends started wondering how they could use the 3D printers for the public good, and came up with the idea of Onaranlar Kulübü (Fixers Club, link in Turkish) in 2015, starting their activities in 2016.
“Our aim was to find ‘bugs’ in the city and fix them using 3D technology,” Gungor tells TRT World. “We started on our own initiative and went on like that for a while. Then we realised that people want to get involved in their cities, that there is such a potential. Because we were getting positive feedback for what we were doing on social media and via emails.”
Because they reside in Istanbul, most Fixers Club projects take place in the city. But, Gungor says, they have left their mark on other cities as well, including Luleburgaz, Eskisehir, Izmir, Hatay, plus international metropolises such as Berlin, Lyon, and New York – “small projects and street installations. But at the core we mainly do projects in Istanbul.”
According to Gungor, they start a project when they note a spot outdoors that could use some care and focus on finding solutions to integrate the city together with people, to create a dialogue. “For example we take street furniture and modify it. After our preliminary work is done we put out a call for volunteers. We say “We will redo street furniture in the Bomonti area in Istanbul, who is in?””
Then they look at the applicants and select those who are appropriate for the project. Then comes the exploratory phase. Then Fixers Club members start the design process, followed by the execution process. “We plan ahead, we know what we will be doing until the end of the year,” Gungor explains.
Asked about how many people Fixers Club consists of, Gungor says “right now there are four people at the core of Onaranlar Kulübü. There’s me, there’s Ufuk Emin Akengin, another co-founder, Nilufer Aksu our content coordinator, and last but not least Aytekin Gezici, project coordinator.” Beyond the core group, including volunteers and the design network, their numbers reach around 2000 people.
City Fixers’ works comprise public space transformations, street installations, developing street furniture, or fixing spaces in disrepair on the street.
Gungor defines ‘city hacking’ as this: “as we go from home to school to work to the cornershop, the streets we live in, we perform artistic and repair work. We can define it as an intervention.”
He says that when you say hacking people think of the negative connotations such as computer hacking. That’s not what he has in mind: “we define it as a source of good, focusing on fixing and creating nice details in people’s lives that will make them happy.”
These interventions are to natural gas boxes, phone boxes, rainwater drainage systems, that look out of place in the city. City Fixers paints them, adds 3D printed sculptures to them, and creates moments of amusement in the city, a touch of colour in otherwise drab neighbourhoods.
Gungor admits that sometimes it’s a Sisyphean task: “The works we do as street installations are not very permanent; either they get vandalised or they get taken by people. We try not to interpret this in a negative light. People’s feedback after seeing what we do is 99 percent positive.”
“Sometimes there are misunderstandings as we work on city streets,” Gungor says. That’s why Fixers Club tries to communicate as best as they can to minimise those: “We tell people what we are trying to achieve, what we’re trying to do. Even though we fix streets, it all starts with fixing attitudes.”
Gungor says the work gives him satisfaction, and that he will continue working to improve streets and public spaces. “The word we hear most often from feedback is ‘hope.’ In this grey universe we live in, waking up every day to a dismal world, we as Fixers Club try to give hope to people, to cheer them up, to make them happy.”