Ankara the city where I grew up, was refounded as the modern capital of the newly born Turkish Republic in 1923. It was built with the positivistic ideals of early 20th c. modernism, and the whole-hearted belief of its founders in the generation of an urban culture fully endowed with European modernity. At the end of the 20th century, when I started to think seriously about cities, Ankara had long diverged from those ideals. It had instead created a cultural landscape of its own, keeping the subtle imprint of all spatial narratives of its fragile everyday history. My passion for the study of cities emanates from the experience of Ankara’s restless spaces. (Omur, Jan 15, 2007)
Ankara: a world (powerpoint).
Most of the images used in this presentation were from Dick Osseman's rich and generous archive of photographs. I would like to extend my gratitude here to him. (Omur, Jan 24, 2007)
I was not raised in a city, but rather in a small town with four even smaller villages inside its borders. Located in Western Massachusetts, Hardwick is a rural farming community with enormous amounts of open space. My family farm contains pastures, forests, and streams that I grew up exploring with other children. From our house you cannot see any other buildings in any direction - a part of small town life that you either love or hate, since small towns seem to be simultaneously nuturing and smothering. Many town residents have lived their whole lives in Hardwick (like my stepfather), and most farms have been in operation for generations, passed down from father to son. The town borders a large reservoir that was poured onto four other towns, they were drowned in a civic works project to provide water for the city of Boston. All the residents were forcibly relocated, and on days when the water is very clear you can still see the tops of roofs, the spires of churches peering up from below. (Marlisa, January 29, 2007)
I'm from New York City, which seems a daunting task for a short paragraph here. But when I think about what New York City, I think about the different ways I get around the city. I can walk from my job in SoHo south through China Town, down through the Financial District, and end up in Battery Park City. If I walk north instead, I can experience the Village with NYU and tons of college-kid hangouts, up to Union Square, and on to the shops of Fifth Avenue. And in each district, the people, the smells, the sounds, they're each unique to that particular place within the larger framework of the city. Then there's the subway. I can take it from my quiet residential neighborhood in Queens to busy Times Square, to my friends' neighborhoods on the Upper West Side or in the Bronx, or down to Coney Island. And every progressive stop is just a little different, has a different atmosphere than the one before or the one after it. Driving through the city (which I do maybe once a month, it's not exactly and efficient mode of transportation for us New Yorkers) gives a completely different perspective. Seeing the Manhattan skyline from the approach to the Queensborough Bridge gives such a sense of anticipation to be a part of all that hustle and bustle. Flying into JFK or LaGuardia (or god-forbid, Newark) is another story all together--you can only imagine what could possibly be happening in that vast city. I love moving through New York City, and these different modes of doing so have defined the way I live in and experience my favorite place in the world. (Michelle, January 30, 2007)
I grew up in the suburbs outside of Boston, the result of my family's flight from the city to the cheap towns to the south after World War II. Our daily lives were completely separate from the city. Our sports teams played other suburban schools, the supermarkets and stores of the surrounding towns provided most of what we neeed, and my relatives and friends all lived in the suburbs. Boston was the cultural center of the area - most of our time "in town" was entertainment related - and we all considered ourselves Bostonians, but our Boston does not correspond to the city limits. The census may tell us that Boston has a population of 600,000 and is 50% non-white, but Greater Boston Metropolitan Area is an overwhelmingly white region of 3,000,000. Boston is associated includes Harvard, Brandeis, Tufts and Boston College, even though these all are mainly in other towns. In my opinion, Boston is an example of the desire to live in a city while still enjoying the good schools, backyards and safe neighborhoods that many perceive as foreign to the modern American city. (Chris, January 31, 20070
Living in Princeton, New Jersey since I was three years old, I have always found the town divided sharply by an edge that comes in the form of the main road. On one side is an endless sprawl of houses, shops, schools, parks—everything that would be expected from suburban New Jersey. Across Nassau Street, the buildings suddenly shift from a town into an architectural wonderland comprised of the gothic and modern structures that make up Princeton University: a world which has never been a part of my conception of ‘home.’ A block away from my house, the public high school appears to be a castle, rising with brick towers and a grand entrance. Only when one reaches the side does it become apparent that most of the classrooms are in trailers parked outside, and that the magnificent structure has a cheap, modern construction grafted onto its back. All around the town, people are spending effort to improve the exteriors of houses and stores, as if they are subconsciously trying to appear as striking as the college; meanwhile the town slowly deteriorates in splendor as it forgets its priorities. Some stores and neighborhoods have not changed in decades, and these places give Princeton the charm that it is known for. Cafes, restaurants, family owned-stores, booksellers, and an endless hosts of familiar faces-- these things make up the Princeton that I know, and will always keep in my memory. (Noah, January 30, 2007)
I am from Oceanside, a suburb of NYC on the south shore of Long Island. The interesting tension of a town like mine is that it mixes two distinct natures and cultures. It is a tributary of a lordly entity referred to always as "The City", and, simultaneously, has a remarkable ability to exist as its own self contained bubble seemingly aloof from any type of sophisticated culture. Paradoxically, those who participate in urban culture often eschew any type of local culture. The two sharply contrast in several other interesting ways, for instance in that the local culture consists in large part of people who are not the first (or even second) generation to live in Oceanside. Predictably, the Urban workers are of higher income and more advanced education. Frankly, I found "the dirty O," as many refer to it, much less than satisfying mostly due to its lack of entertainment, meeting forums, artistic events, ect, as well as a very closed local society that concerned itself with gossip and other matters of dubious importance while ostensibly being un-impeachably "part of the community." The town is known for drug use and promiscuity as well as the drag races that take place outside Nathan's during the night. Like much of Long Island, Oceanside began as a spread out place attractive because of the proximity of the beach and the city. Later, it developed into a populous suburb. The effect of this is a neighborhood environment blended, and not separate from, commercial developement. The houses are of similiar style, made of wood or less often brick, and access to the more expensive neighborhoods is difficult, creating the pleasing effect of adventuring into an obscure and withdrawn labyrinth of Bourgeoisie Glory. (Evan 1-30-07)
Posted at Jan 30/2007 11:45PM:
I grew up on the upper west side of New York City. Though I love the sensation of getting on to an air-conditioned subway after standing on a hot platform, I prefer to walk whenever I can. I walk through Central Park almost everyday I’m home and consider it my enormous backyard. Designed in 1857 by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, Central Park was made to serve as a natural escape from the crowded, bustling streets. When traversing Central Park, one may stumble upon statues, fountains, a carousel, and several picturesque ponds and bridges. These are elements that are reminiscent of the English Garden, which unlike the Italian Garden was made to look wild and natural even though it required just as much plumbing and landscaping. Olmstead and Vaux also cleverly constructed sunken passageways for cars and buses to pass through the park without disturbing its tranquility. Although Central Park functions as public space for people of all ages, it is still large enough for one to feel as if they are in their own private garden. (Rachel 1/31/07)
Posted at Jan 31/2007 08:20PM:
Sarah Dawson: I was born and raised in Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin. Having spent my formative years on the trendy East Side, I quickly became aware of the cultural and economic divisions in the city. It's called the East Side because it's east of the Milwaukee River, a chemically altered waterway that produces three legged-frogs. Walking past the neighborhood organic store/restaurant (Beans and Barley), you find yourself at an intersection of conflicting messages. An old school bar to your right, a vacant bank to your left and numerous forms of nightlife ahead. If you keep walking straight, you will pass the newly installed Whole Foods, Columbia Hospital where I was born, the old loony bin, and the beautiful Lake Michigan. Walking along the lakefront in any season is a fabulous stress reliever. Especially if the Canadain geese have invaded. Making a left, however, you pass an expensive restaurant catering to twenty-somethings, the magnificent Oriental Theatre (dating to 1923), the long standing skate shop run by guys I've known since high school, the seedy bar/arcade/bowling alley below ground, a t-shirt shop, a new wave barber shop, and the Greek-American restaurant open 24 hours for late night munchies. What you won't notice on the East Side (except along the lake where million dollar homes prevail) is architectural personality. Wisconsin has very little. All of its charm, and visitors swear it has it in spades, comes from the flavor of the locals. The prevalence of beer, cheese, and bratwurst doesn't hurt. (Sarah 31-Jan-07)
I lived most of my life in Dalhart, a small rural town located in the Panhandle region of Texas that has remained largely unchanged for decades. An agricultural community supporting farmers and ranchers, it actually upholds many of the traditional “Texas” stereotypes: tumbleweeds blow around on dusty summer days, high school football is a way of life, the annual rodeo is a huge deal, and anything other than a southern drawl is considered an “accent.” An extremely tight-knit community, Dalhart is the type of town where many people eventually return after high school or college, maintaining the region’s traditional way of life. When I first moved to this town (85 miles from the nearest shopping mall), I remember my first encounter with West Texas: sitting in the Depression-era 2-screen movie theater (the only one in town), I heard someone jingling as they walked past me to their seat. It was a local cowboy, dressed in full attire from a day on the ranch, still wearing his spurs. Overall, there were aspects I appreciated and of course others I disliked about life in small town Texas, but to me, the unique experience was worth it. (Kate 31-Jan-07)
I have always lived within about 10 miles of where I do now, Fletcher, a town of about 900 people in rural Vermont. There are many more cows than people, and probably more sugar maples than either. There really is no "city center", the intersection of Fletcher and Fairfield Roads constitutes a denser area of housing, a store (that gets a majority of its business from snowmobilers), a church, and the 100 person, K-6 Elementary School. Most people in town can't see their closest neighbor from their house, and a lot of times in the winter people get snowed in because the roads are so bad. We don't really seem to care though. Our families are the most important things to us, and many kids, especially those outside the "center" of town spend more time with their siblings than anyone else. Architecturally, about half of the houses in town have been there for 100 years or more, attached to the family farms. The other houses are mostly prefabricated mobile homes, or cookie cutter Capes. Recently, our first "subdivision" was put in, adding 4 homes to the town. Now that I think about it, we don't have any sanctioned "public space" but no one seems to maintain their land as solely theirs. The schools fields are on private land, snowmobile trails crisscross the whole town (including the field at my house), abandoned roads are used for hiking and mountain bike trails, and kids bike over the whole town to get to friends' houses, because the roads are few and far between. As long as you can't see into someone's house, nobody seems to care. (Kelsey 2.1.07)
Whenever I think of my home city, Miami, an overload of sensory images comes to mind. Colors, like the neon lights of Miami Beach, the illuminated buildings of Downtown, and the Romero Britto murals that abound the city; smells, like the sweetness of Cuban coffee, the saltiness of the beaches, and the pungency of the bay area both remind me of my city. Sounds, people talking, laughing, latin music all evoke the energy of Miami to me. I think Miami is what it is largely because of location. As a metropolitan area in Southeastern Florida, its warm, balmy summers and mild winters attract the northeastern retiree. Its proximity to South America and the Caribbean makes it a safe haven for the politically persecuted and a promised land for those who have hopes of making a better life in America but still want to remain close to their family and their culture. As a result of this diversity, Miami is a place where various ethnic enclaves, particularly those of Hispanic origin find refuge and learn to cooperate within a metropolitan area. As the 6th largest metropolitan area in the U.S., Miami is home to 5.4 million inhabitants, 67% of which are Hispanic of any origin. The city has three official languages- English, Spanish and Creole, and this can be noticed by the street signs which, in many parts of the city, are written in two or more languages. However, the feature that makes the city such a rich and interesting place to live or visit goes beyond statistics-- the warmth and friendliness of the Latin and Caribbean cultures truly makes one want to return to Miami and remember it fondly. (Daniela 2/1/07)
The suburban area right outside of Philadelphia is referred to as the “Main Line” because of the railroad constructed there in the 19th century which ran through Philadelphia to Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Around this line sprung up large estates where the elite of the city spent their leisure time. This elite culture still remains a central feature of the area today. Driving through this space, one may pass from town to town in a matter of seconds: in each town one may find a common mixture of grand old homes, schools and colleges, and lush greenery. My mental map of this space where I grew up consists of lines drawn between my house, my grandparents’ house down the street, my school, and my friends’ houses. These lines, unlike that of the Railroad, spread out in all directions, like a spiderweb. My conception of the end of the Main Line, the city of Philadelphia, is dominated by its many historic landmarks which I revisited each time my dad gave a tour to an out-of-town guest. There is Independence Hall, where the Founding Fathers did their thing; there is the Liberty Bell, newly encased in glass and bars after 9/11, and the little house where Betsy Ross sewed the first flag. Right next to her house stands the building where the Real World Philadelphia crew lived a few years ago. A testament to the sharp juxtapositions and rigid fault lines of the city. (Amanda 2/1/07)
Posted at Feb 02/2007 10:13AM:
Having moved to New Jersey when I was already 14 years I had already spent time living in big cities and towns so small they don’t even have a ‘downtown.’ Over the years however, I have learned to love my small town of Princeton, because I learned to accept its big city qualities. Princeton's population is very diverse and contains several people in all social classes. Unlike other suburbs, around the rest of the US and New Jersey Princeton offers low income housing which is inhabited mostly by undocumented immigrants. Princeton Also comes with an old world charm which gives it a unique and historic feeling over other New Jersey towns. The shopping in Princeton is also world class. Nassau Street, is lined with as many Rolex dealers as it is coffee shops, however, the few remaining mom and pop stores are slowly being replaced by labels such Ralph Lauren and j Crew. Princeton is the greatest town in New Jersey. Princeton is also both New York and Philadelphia’s greatest suburb as both major cities can be reached in under an hour. And to brag about Princeton's central location for one more minute, I would point out that in the summer I can reach the beautiful New Jersey shore line in just under 90 minutes, and skiing in Pennsylvania in the same amount of time. When in Princeton live it up like a Princetonian. (Luis, February 2, 2007)
I grew up in a block of brownstone houses on Montgomery St. in the south end of Boston, moving only once, directly through an un-insulated wall from 54 to 52, where my Mother still lives. Without brothers or sisters to play with, having fun often meant going places around the city with Mom. What strikes me now that I have traveled to other cities is how much Boston offers without seeming expansive or overly disjoined: the south end's bistros, brownstones and parks in back bay, a rediculously quaint chinatown, the huddled high rises in the financial district, the bronze statues in the boston common, great italian food in the north end, stately houses and antique shops on beacon hill, college students and grandparents riding the T to a Sox game, and everywhere bits and pieces of US History. Cambridge, east and west, compliments the city across the river. As do Brookline, Alston, Jamaica Plain, and Sommerville. It's all less than twenty minutes away, although it may take a few years before one can do it without getting lost.
I am also struck by how segregated Boston can be for such a small-seeming place. Mattapan, Roxbury, and South Boston all just as close as the neighborhoods I've listed above, are avoided by many Bostonians for their respective racial homogeny. Indeed, the proximity of these entirely african-american, hispanic, and white neighborhoods to the entirely accessible feel of the others belies many past and present problems with racism in America. (John 2/6/2007)
Posted at Feb 13/2007 04:55PM:
My first general geographic home is the small island of Waldron, which appears as a town on maps and databases. This is only due to the presence of a post office, which with the one room school house, some county maintained gravel roads and the county dock comprise the only officially shared spaces on the island, which also has no commercial businesses or public utilities. Each resident (or family) is responsible for their own private little kingdom. The most similar thing to a city is the dense forest which covers the island, creating a visual density of interior spaces similar to that of buildings in a city. Due to the lack of naturally occuring year round potable water supplies, the first nations peoples (various Coast Salish groups- Samish, Lummi, etc.) did not live on Waldron year round. Camas beds and huge beachfront middens suggest seasonal food resource extraction and feasting.
My second home is the city of San Francisco, even though there is no private space there to which I am entitled. The rumor has it that the first nations (Miwoks and others) peoples never lived on the land that is now San Francisco, using it only for cermonial gatherings of multiple tribes. It is understandable that they did not live there year round, because compared to the surrounding area, San Francisco was a bit of a cold, windy, foggy, sandy wasteland. It was not until the founding of the Mission town of Yerba Buena on the edge of the Lagoon of Sorrow (the site of todays Mission district) that people began to live on the land now known as San Francisco. (Bochay 2/13/07)