The history of twentieth-century architecture in Turkey can be presented as a conflict between a powerful state bureaucracy and an independent architectural community: the former producing most of the buildings and infrastructure but with little verbalisation; the latter producing most of the discourse but building relatively little. This article examines a case that challenges this dichotomy. It focuses on the architectural department of SİSAG (1969–77), a company associated with Hacettepe University in Ankara, and the organisational, institutional and occupational modes and practices that it employed. The article explores both the architectural production of SİSAG and its role as the setting for the first white-collar strike in Turkey, and it unearths the intellectual and institutional discourse on the organisation of architectural production that surfaced with this confrontation. The article shows how, in the relationship between bureaucratic tradition and professional discourse, SİSAG took an ‘in-between’ position, its architects seeking to replace conflict with cooperation, and to reconcile ideas of public service, public interest and social engagement on the one hand with disciplinary knowledge, planning and design and independent research on the other.