Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truth Windows

As I often do, I'll lead with BLDGBlog:
[I]f we could simply scrape aside some paint and plaster and see, for once, the truth, the Real, the scaffolding, the code that makes and sustains the everyday worldly environment; though, I suppose, any attempt to over-literalize such a thing—even the portentous, Frodo Baggensian name of a "truth window"—would come out as, well... exactly like an architecturally themed remake of The Matrix (perhaps resembling the unwatchable film Dark City). 
 He's wrong - Dark City is a fantastic movie. But everything else about Truth Windows is fun and fascinating.

I've written about the unders of Istanbul previously, and I still think it's worth a mention again. I love the optimism of the term "truth window" as in "ah yes, we've finally understood it." If we see the scaffolding of Istanbul, we understand Istanbul. Or, if we can make fun of the zaniness of Almaty, we'll come that much closer to solving Kazakhstan.

Beirut has come somewhat towards this assumption. The real, real, interesting story of Le Maison Jaune is taken as a symbol for Beirut itself. From its sumptuous beginnings to its noble heritage to its bloody, terrifying, use during the Civil War. It is a symbol and a birthmark at once.

Istanbul? Well, Istanbul still sells itself as the city of Paleologues and Sultans, of Ancient Greeks and the mysterious harem. If locals know the truth, there is certainly less opportunity to celebrate it. Honesty doesn't seem to work as well in buildings as it does in books.

Maybe it's because Turkey is too optimistic in its self-image. The forward glance, looking upward and ever-onward conflicts with the cockroaches that would show up if truth windows were set up. It's odd, even though Brazil uses it on their flag, "Order and Progress" would fit Turkey an awful lot, as well. Order & Progress fly in the face of the inchoate, anarchic underpinnings of cities like Istanbul. They give a pat on the head and make cooing noises about industrialization and GDP to the very real and very serious environmental problems that occur.

Well most every government does, I suppose, and it's a problem for all of the G-20 states (and quite a few that fall in below there). But if nobody takes my idea before then, I'm going to have periscopes in the sidewalks in time for Istanbul Bienale 2037.

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