Thursday, July 1, 2010

City is through the eye of the beholder

"Cities will be things you have delivered to you, like pizza, and they and their residents will be treated just as disposably." - BLDGBlog on Small Businesses with crazy dreams.

What causes "sense of place"? How do we know that we are Here instead of There, when we can pay and do both?

So now I'm here, working on this. The tourism industry is an interesting thing...the trick is to convince people they are somewhere else, somewhere exotic, without them having to sacrifice anything. Or instead, have them sacrifice just what they want in order to impress their friends back home. In a city like Istanbul, there are hundreds of iterations of the same ideal, and people can kind of tell when you're just selling something to them. So it's more fun, I think, to embrace the adventure, explore with them, and tell them just how exciting everything could be.

My job, in short, is to deliver a city. Because the same city can be given in different ways (LOL @ DesignObserver, heart @ the DO for doing Bukhara to begin with). I can hardly know the ins-n-outs of Istanbul, I just need to know the sorts of stuff that people want to see. Delivering an Authentic city on a week or two's notice...just-in-time Architectural History.

One of the most important lessons I've learned from history classes is that nobody really cares about the people. Especially in situations like this, they're background noise. And living here, its tough not to be an expat, tough not to have a couple of "My good Turkish friends" up on a stage for your old friends' approval. Its weird. There was a line in a book I read recently along the lines of "We're on the front line of an empire we don't even know exists." Be it about English teachers or whatever, we're all little minions in the American, Anglophone, empire. May as well be up front about it. The big question when living outside the home culture is basically "Am I trying to make people like me or am I trying to be like them?" And even though that introduces a dichotomy, the answer is always, yknow, complicated.

So it isn't the worst thing to do. There are other projects building up, and I get to say stuff like "Lets get this to the Albanians by the end of the week." And I get to leave my other, Bohemian, pied-terre for a new one on the water. Even if I lose a month's rent doing it.

So all of this running around means few posts. And especially few posts on what I want to be writing about. I hope to be changing that in the next couple of weeks. Just hang on and listen to the navel-gazing until then.


  1. I guess it depends on the type of tourist you're trying to attract. I described to my coworkers last week my ideal vacation in Soccotra and got laughed out of the room. Are you targeting American or European tourists, or those from other regions?