Her scholarly work on a geopolitically conscious global history of urbanism and architecture inspires her teaching. She is the author of Landfill Istanbul: Twelve Scenarios for a Global City (124/3, 2004); Architecture in Translation: Germany, Turkey and the Modern House (Duke University Press, 2012); Turkey: Modern Architectures in History (with S. Bozdoğan, Reaktion/University of Chicago Press, 2012); and Open Architecture: Migration, Citizenship and the Urban Renewal of Berlin-Kreuzberg by IBA-1984/87 (Birkhäuser-De Gruyter, 2018).
Akcan has authored more than 100 articles on the intertwined histories of Europe and West Asia, critical and postcolonial theory, architectural photography, migration and diasporas, translation, and contemporary architecture. These works offer new ways to understand the global movement of architecture and advocate a commitment to new ethics of hospitality and global justice. Akcan has also participated in exhibitions by carrying her practice beyond writing to visual media.
She has received awards and fellowships from the Graham Foundation, American Academy in Berlin, UIC, Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin (Transregional Studies Forum), Clark Institute, Getty Research Institute, Canadian Center for Architecture, CAA, Mellon Foundation, DAAD, and KRESS/ARIT.
Ackan has also taught at UI-Chicago, Humboldt University in Berlin, Columbia University, New School, and Pratt Institute in New York, and METU in Ankara. She was educated as an architect in Turkey and received her Ph.D. from Columbia University.