Thursday, August 5, 2010

Comparison in Pictures: Rome and Istanbul

Comparison in Pictures: Rome and Istanbul
Maggie Liu
Summer 2010

Rome, Fig. 1

Something I couldn’t help but notice in Rome was the juxtaposition of old and new. Or rather, new conforming to the presence of old. Ruins and foundations drive the placement of the modern in Rome, from the curve of the Rome center building to the layout of Piazza Navona. Figure 1, a photo of a street near the market at Piazza Vittorio, in the Esquilino district, reminded me strongly of the layering of ages in Rome. In the shot you can see three distinct time periods: the ancient, in the structure in the very back of the center of the frame; the fascist, in the blocky building to the left; and the modern, surrounding it all. The street is packed with little cars and everything feels close together. There is graffiti on the small van. The sun is bright. To me, Rome often felt like that: close together, bright and gritty. It felt like a garden (albeit a garden of stone) which had been left to its own devices for a very long time, sections overlapping. Correspondingly, life felt paced like a garden: slow and sunny.

Istanbul, Fig. 2

Istanbul is also a very old city, and it shows. But it shows in a different way than it does in Rome. Because Istanbul is still growing, and because much of it was built quite recently, the contrast between new and old there feels more deliberate. The pace of life felt faster, more like I am accustomed to in Seattle. Figure 2 shows a modern sculpture to the right and the older, more traditional mosque behind it, in the area by the Spice Market. One of the first things I noticed about Istanbul, aside from all the Turkish flags, were the minarets of the many, many mosques. In Rome, there was no shortage of churches. Pop around a corner and woah, look at that church! In contrast, in Istanbul there was no pop around the corner moment; the minarets alone made the location of a mosque very obvious from far away. A second contrast to Rome was the amount of space available in Istanbul. The city of Istanbul is much bigger than Rome. But even within the old city we spent most of our time in, Istanbul felt more spread apart. As shown in Figure 2, the pockets of space are much larger (admittedly there are still many crowded alleyways, even in that area!).

The mosques and the larger public spaces (which usually featured more greenery, not shown in Figure 2) immediately set Istanbul apart from Rome. Still, the cities were not without similarities. Both had a deep sense of age not often felt in Seattle. But in Rome, the history of the city weighed more heavily upon it than in Istanbul. As a result, the two bright cities had very different tempos.

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