City Tourism

In Feb, Tim sent me a link to an exhibition about Tourism in Barcelona.

He described it to me as –

An exhibition entitled Tourism, Spaces of Fiction –  the premise being how design (graphic design, fashion, architecture and industrial design) plays a role in the planning, development and commercialization in the industry of tourism at a global scale.

It had 8 different exhibits completed by 8 different curators and is designed to be face-to-face and virtual. So it presents physical models in the space (ie a scale model of the proposed developments in Dubai Land) but also information on individual touch tablet PCs, which is activated as you enter each exhibition area. The lady told me there was over 5 hours of interactive content on the tablet.

There was information (ie Ebenezer Howard and Garden Cities), historical perspectives (Le Corbusier and the Modernist movement), images (postcard from around the world’s tourist destinations), films of visions for future (Ruler of Dubai – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum), interviews and architectural drawings.

The exhibition starts with a catalogue of commercial tourism magazines from around the world.

Then moves onto how advertising and imagery promoting tourist destinations alter peoples perception of place which then leads to planners and architects trying to deliver the iconography built up by people selling holidays.

At the time, I had said the  tourism/ city marketing was super interesting to me, because.

(1) I really think tourists and new comers are sometimes the best, honest, impartial guides to cities- especially on how public realms work, accessibilty, transit etc.  (NOTE: A genius trick from my old boss Mark was to use Lonely Planet descriptions, when we were comparing towns as part of research)

(2) I’m intrigued by the marketing of policy and images of place.   Actually I think all planners should be thinking like tourism marketing and advertising people  – because to me it is all sort of the same business – the business of the selling some idea/value.  Like “selling” notions of high density, urban design principles, a policy being good etc

Since then I’d add, that this tourism link also relates to –

(3) Supporting iconic, responsive, architecture. When I came home and Toronto people asked me to take photos of Brisbane I became a tourist.  What I found myself wanting to show off in the CBD was the the more daring examples of architecture (Brisbane Square, Kurilpa Bridge, GOMA/State Library, Story Bridge) and public spaces (Queen St  Mall, Southbank, River walkways).  And on recent bike rides, I love the River and how that is “very Brisbane”.   More recently as I’m about to go, I fall in love and discover pockets of this wonderful city all the time.

(4) Public space design and creating destinations. Public spaces are what tourist experience – it’s how we fundamentally judge the “vibe” of a new place we visit.  It is in public space in which we see the diversity of population, experience natural and built landscape and where it is we can test the friendliness and helpfulness of a city when/if we get lost.  I remember moments being in New York, Melbourne, and Shanghai, being asked by tourists for directions, even though I was a tourist myself.

Brisbane has great public spaces, that are not seen overseas.  Coming home from Toronto – I appreciate more Southbank and the Queen Street Mall as profound and important spaces.  Brisbane would not be what it is without them    CLIMATE! Climate gives Brisbane such amazing public space opportunities (once we deal with shade)

I really like Southbank (as an organisation and space).  I presented my overseas public space learnings to their Planning and Design section, and I was saying in a email to my friend Nathan –

I had a meeting with Southbank Corp today, actually I think they would be great to work with, interesting planning/redevelopment/urban design

Funny one at times – a sense it is an amazing but under-appreciated public space.  Tourist might love it more than Brisbanites – always taking for granted our own backyards.

It was really a stinking hot today today and walking there by the beach, wishing I had my swimmers and no work to go back to.”

A fake beach in the middle of a city – I really think people forget what an amazing thing that is!

When I worked at Tract one of the “hero projects” was Cairns Lagoon.   A really great piece of waterfront redevelopment, and a design that is an asset for tourists as well as the residents.  Does it matter really if it’s “touristy” or “more local” – it’s still all about people enjoying public space.  As it should be.


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