Walking Down The Street; Poetic Expression from Istanbul and What To Do with Urban Form in the United States

WALKING DOWN THE STREET by: Orhan Veli Kanık

Walking down the street,
I realize that I’m smiling.
And I smile even more
because I’m thinking
passers-by must think me
a bit funny in the head –
or, of course, that I’ve been drinking…

Walking through the streets of Istanbul is an amazing feeling. Cafe’s literally spill into the narrow streets, so overcrowded with dinner parties it becomes almost impossible to walk though.

The image presented below is just one example of a typical street in Istanbul where cafes, bars, and restaurants litter the urban landscape creating an extremely unique and welcoming aroma of joy and festivity. This image is of the Nevizade section located near Istikal Street close to Taksim in the center of Istnabul.

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Why not have this image be of here in Richmond, VA or Houston, TX? A recent article publish by The Daily Beast, ranked Richmond the 7th most ‘Aspirational City’ in the United States. Taking some of the wonderful things that Istanbul has to offer such as its open street cafe culture and implementing them to areas of the city seeking revitalization is just one way the City of Richmond can use it’s ‘aspirational’ status to improve the urban landscape.

Recently the city of Richmond passed an ordinance allowing temporary patio dining in certain parts of the city (although the ordinance is still quite restricting). Richmond’s alleyways also offer excellent opportunities where the city can introduce a network of Istanbullu cafe scenes. Furthermore, the city is currently looking for proposals on what to do with the old 17th St. Farmer’s Market site in Shockoe Bottom which could potential be a great place for cafes and on street dining.

In my hometown of Houston, Texas, where advocacy towards pedestrianization of the urban environment is on the rise, could also look to Istanbul for inspiration. In the same Daily Beast article mentioned above, Houston, Texas ranked #3 as the nation’s most ‘aspirational’ city just behind the cities of Austin and New Orleans. With all these cities located next to one another some may call this part of the country the ‘Aspirational Corridor’.

In the past few weeks, there has been a call for establishing parts of the City of Houston as ‘car-free’ specifically in the Downtown Main Street corridor. Istanbul again could serve as a model in how the city should approach and design parts of the city to be car free or car-lite.

The final image below is of Istikal Street in Istanbul. One of the most pedestrian friendly avenues in Istanbul and a favorite place to gather for all Istanbullus. This street is very similar to what other large urban cities have across the world such as Mexico City, D.F.’s Madero Street which was recently converted into a pedestrian only avenue. The bottom most image is of me in Mexico City’s Madero Street. With some planning, this too may be what Downtown Houston’s Main Street Pedestrian corridor will soon look like…..

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