Architecture and Tourism: Perceptions, Performance and Place

Architecture and Tourism: Perceptions, Performance and Place

Architecture and Tourism: Perceptions, Performance and Place

Architecture and Tourism: Perceptions, Performance and Place


The past two centuries have witnessed an increase in the commodification of tourist sites across the world. Everything from historical monuments to exotic holiday destinations has been redesigned and packaged for mass consumption. As a result, the histories of specific sites have been re-conceptualized. Some have been preserved and celebrated, while others have been left to decay. In this process, buildings, cities and entire countries have been remapped by tourism initiatives to serve political, cultural, economic and scholarly goals. Considering these profound transformations, Architecture and Tourism examines the reciprocal relationship between the modern practice of tourism and the built environment. It shows how photography, film and souvenirs have been deployed to help mediate and mythologize specific sites. It also explores how tourist itineraries, behavior and literature are institutionalized for popular consumption in order to support larger cultural objectives. Drawing on case studies in Cuba, Ghana, Greece, France, Italy, Libya, Mauritius, Spain and the United States, Architecture and Tourism explores the touristic experience, representation and meaning of place within distinct cultural contexts. From the former sites of the slave trade on the Ghanaian coast to the urban renewal of Old Havana, from the honeymoon resorts in the Poconos to the postmodern spectacle of Bilbao, from the world's fairs of the 1930s to the colonialist encounters in Italian Libya, each chapter provides a provocative insight into the practice of tourism and the conception of place.


The humanistic and social scientific study of tourism has an intriguing history. The largest peacetime movement of human beings in human history and a leisure time activity of the vast majority of academics, tourism, until recently, received relatively little analytical attention compared with the rivers of academic ink spilled over other phenomena of more modest scale. Tourism operators, related business ventures, and consulting firms, generated a significant literature on how to structure and profit from tourism activities, but usefully critical and analytical perspectives have appeared only slowly.

As someone who was an early contributor to the social science literature on this subject (Greenwood 1972, 1977), three decades ago I was fascinated by the inattention to a phenomenon that seemed to be overwhelming Europe. It was perhaps the first time I noticed the ability of so many social scientists to ignore practices that dominate the world scene while giving meticulous attention to subjects that only they and their immediate circle of colleagues could possibly care about.

While the dissociation between the research agendas of the social sciences and the humanities and the strongest concerns of society at large has itself been revealed as an historical and political product (Furner 1975; Ross, 1991), tourism research has had a harder time coming into its own because as academics we are ourselves inveterate tourists and prefer to be “off duty” when enjoying our leisure by traveling to see monuments or historical locations and to enjoy good food and beautiful landscapes. Whatever the cause, despite a variety of interesting efforts (Smith 1977, 1989; MacCannell 1976, 1999; and The Annals of Tourism Research), the subject of tourism only began to receive systematic critical attention in the 1990s. The current volume is part of this trend and demonstrates the riches to be found in the analytical study of tourism.

A diverse and lively group of scholars with a primarily architectural and historical focus here provides a variety of ways to problematize tourism as a set of practices to examine, compare, and critique. The chapters display a wealth of options and approaches demonstrating how rich the topic is and how the study of tourism immediately moves us beyond tourism itself and into the analysis of many broader social, historical, and artistic questions.

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