Cover photo for Cengiz Yetken's Obituary
Cengiz Yetken Profile Photo

Cengiz Yetken

d. September 24, 2023

Cengiz Yetken

d. September 24, 2023

Oak Park, Illinois

 All Are Welcome


Saturday, November 18 11:30 am - 12:30 pm Central Standard Time (CST)

A Celebration of Life: Cengiz Yetken


Baha'i Faith Center of Oak Park 124 Madison Street Oak Park, IL

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A Life Story

Cengiz Yetken, architect, author and professor of architecture, passed away on September 24, 2023 in Palm Springs, California after sustaining an inoperable brain injury from an unexpected fall while on vacation. The family was grateful for the attentive caregivers at the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs who worked heroically to allow them some time to share prayers, loving memories and say goodbye.

Cengiz was born in Ceyhan, Turkiye in 1940. He was one of the first students at Middle East Technical University (METU), School of Architecture in Ankara graduating with undergraduate and master degrees. After graduation, he was awarded a Fulbright grant to study with the esteemed Professor Louis I. Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated with honors, receiving his second master's degree in 1966, was asked to join the faculty of architecture at the University and worked in the office of Lou Kahn. Cengiz taught architecture at METU (Turkiye), Ball State University (Indiana) where he met his loving wife, Carol, and at the University of Virginia, where Carol received her Masters in Landscape Architecture and his eldest granddaughter is presently studying. In 1981, he left academia for professional practice and spent the next three decades at prestigious Chicago firms Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill (SOM), and Perkins & Will as well as his own practice. He created educational, institutional and specialty award-winning projects in various US cities and around the world including in China, Angola (Africa), Bahrain, Dubai, Turkiye, Korea, Pakistan, India, Singapore, and Hong Kong - while also providing building and design expertise for countless forts and playhouses for his children and grandchildren. 

With precision and artistry, he approached architecture with a style that achieved simple and always elegant designs, letting his projects, whatever their function, express themselves. 

During retirement he authored, “Unlearning Architecture,” devoted to his mentor, Louis Kahn, published in both English and Turkish. The book provided a context for understanding Kahn and his holistic approach to architectural design in addition to being a heartwarming story about his coming of age experiences in America. 

He was a 42-year resident of Oak Park, Illinois where he delighted taking friends and visitors from around the world to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and Home and Studio, and the work of other Prairie School Architects in the neighborhood.

A life-long international football fan, Cengiz brought together his sense of playfulness with childhood memories and was the proud creator of Kick-A-Shay™, a handcrafted, competitive soccer-style table-top game, for which he received a US Patent.

Cengiz led a full, impactful life, one that is the very essence of the American Story - immigrates as a student from modest beginnings, meets and marries the love of his life (they just celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary), embarks on a highly successful professional career, and raises two intelligent, hard-working and socially-conscious kids. He gave so much to his adopted country and it is lives like his that make America a successful nation of immigrants promising a hopeful example of the oneness of humanity. (Cue music from his favorite musical, Hamilton, “Immigrants, we get the job done!”) 

While Cengiz loved art, music, and poetry, he will be most famously remembered for his wit - no one who met him failed to witness his sense of humor and generous spirit. He was proud of the accomplishments of his wife, daughter (Melike Yetken Krilla), son (Tarik Yetken), and their spouses and children. Cengiz (or “Dede” as he was known to his grandkids) was a doting grandfather and recently he shared with Carol that his pride and joy was that his family members are responsible, productive, smart and compassionate human beings.

The family greatly appreciates the overwhelming outpouring of love from around the world and support from family, friends and people we didn't even know whose lives he impacted during this unexpected and difficult time. His life touched many people. For those interested in making donations in honor of Cengiz, the family requests prayers for the progress of his soul, sharing an act of service in his memory, or donating to the University of Virginia Architecture Academic Support Fund (with specification that the donation be in his name). Many will remember Cengiz as an active mentor and passionate architectural visionary. He would be happy to know his legacy continues to guide future architects to create spaces that unify people and bring a sense of purpose and joy. 

Cengiz was a devoted member of the Baha'i Faith from a large Baha’i family dating back generations. Graveside Services according to Baha'i laws were held on Thursday, September 28 at Desert Memorial Park, Palm Springs Cemetery District, California. A celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, November 18 in Oak Park, Illinois.

Cengiz was proceeded in death by mother Munevver Hidayet Yetken and father Ahmet Yetken. He leaves behind a loving wife, Carol (Hanenkratt), a son Tarik Yetken and partner Florian Gador (Los Angeles, California) and daughter Melike Yetken Krilla, husband Jeffrey Krilla and four grandchildren, Charlotte (19), Samantha (16), Elodie Ruth (5) and Milo (3) (McLean, Virginia). He is also survived by his centenarian Mother-in-Law, Ruth Hanenkratt and Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law, Daniel and Cynthia Hanenkratt and extended family in/near Monticello, Indiana.

Graveside Services according to Baha'i laws took place on Thursday, September 28, 12:30 pm Pacific time

Desert Memorial Park, Palm Springs Cemetery District, California.



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