It is very common to see tourists gathered, herded together in certain spots around the city. On a parallel street or not so distant plaza, locals go about their lives. The two groups rarely interact. The tourists tend to follow mainstream or generic guide books, and only when lost do they discover a city’s more genuine quarters.
The non-historic centre, generally ignored by tourists, enlarges the city in several ways; it provides a more realistic look at how people in a town live and enjoy the everyday; it gives one a more authentic approach to urbanism, architecture and commerce; and it offers visitor the possibility to abandon their tourist status for a moment and interact with the city as it is.
Martí Guixé asks: How could we get tourists to explore more than the historic centre?
TOFA answers: The things people typically do on vacation are comparable in each city—even monotonous. The list tends to not stray far from what friends, a Lonely Planet guide or the tourist office recommend. This hinders any real exploration of the city, and keeps visitors fairly close to the already beaten path. A bit of creativity could spark new modes of urban discovery.
Instead of giving out conventional city maps, I’d love to see tourist information centers hand out little exploration kits and send the visitors on their way to uncover the city for themselves. By avoiding the traditional attractions—and being imaginative with the kits—, visitors will see what cities truly have to offer, especially at night.
The exploration sets I have imagined would contain torches and a map of the darkest places in the city. Now you’re probably thinking: Why on earth would you want to go to the darkest parts of the city? Because in combination with the camera that most every tourist carries, this torch will become an urban explorer’s tool to both find the uncharted and take amazing photos. It challenges the travelers to use their creative talents and redefine urban space. Regardless if they love taking pictures of architecture, the urban setting, or of their friends and themselves, the torch combined with a bit of imagination and the darkness will enable them to create something more unique than the typical holiday slideshow.
With this light in the dark, your photos are no longer only dependant on what the city has to offer, you can create something personal. Set your camera to a 30-second exposure time, take the torch in your hand and start moving it. You can add whatever you want to the picture, paint something, write a message or—of course—just illuminate the urban beauty around you and capture a unique few moments–the only thing you need is a camera, a mobile light source like a torch and a relatively dark space to take your special pictures.
If you get bored with the single torch, you could also search for any blinking gadgets with a power button or something that glows in the dark. Go to a toy store and look for sparklers, light sabers or LED lamps.
Every building, storefront, or skyline view in the city becomes a half-blank canvas. Depending on what attracts you most, it makes sense to take a walk outside when it’s getting dark. Find your favorite dark spots; they’re no longer the scary unknown. They are your familiar friend. Maybe the tourist office could even offers tours with dedicated artists who can show you the best dark spots and views in the city.
This technique employs imagination and three-dimensional thinking, but you don’t have to be a good painter or calligrapher. You’ll improve by simply practicing.
Once you’re back home, you can be sure that your photo albums will get a bit more interesting. Get rid of the standard “me-in-front-of” tourist snapshot attitude and encourage your friends to explore something new through your photos.
Because finally it’s all about your creativity and motivation—in the middle of a huge, new playground: the city at night.