Heavens, what’d you do with my boring city guide!

On your next visit to Berlin or Portland (should you be so lucky to visit either amazing city once, never mind multiple times), you may, as we did, stumble upon each city’s less predictable and subsequently notable city guides.

We discovered that a handful of forward-thinking businesses had decided to take tourism and recreation matters into their own hands and have started to publicize their cities in new and different ways.

In Berlin, businesses in a small, historic but otherwise little-known square collaborated with a couple of art organizations, do you read me?! and Gallery Print, to develop a city guide that’s actually worthy of exploration itself. The following is an insert from Berlin’s POTSE district’s website:

What you’re holding in your hands is a sketched-out guide to culture, food, and shopping on and around Potsdamer Strasse – a street affectionately known as “Potse” to locals and fans. Over the past five years, Potse has quietly evolved from being a nondescript thoroughfare connecting two re-emerging western Berlin districts to the city’s most concentrated hub for visual art and the things that go with it – studios, galleries, a cozy bar or two, a reading room, and even avant-garde shops for the daring.

How does Potse differ from Berlin’s many past art hubs? HISTORY: It was here that the city’s most celebrated art galleries and antique dealers congregated in the 1920s. HYPE: There’s less of it. Serious galleries have put down serious roots, and they’re often in spaces that aren’t necessarily visible from the street. Look, then look again – inside, upstairs, in the backyard. Potse reveals itself slowly, and rewards the diligent.

By producing their own guide, the forward-thinking collection of POTSE businesses have not only made their little square more distinguishable and detectable, they’ve elevated their area to the ultimate artistic shopping, seeing, eating and drinking experience. Not bad, considering the majority of the listed businesses would likely never have made it into any of the mainstream city guides.

Across the globe in Portland Oregon, something similar, though aesthetically more individualistic and authentic is afoot.

Table of Contents (TOC), the local clothing store behind Portland’s unique and engaging guide, is also a resource studio and a concept store. Their guide is truly brief. It’s half of POTSE’s size, but then again, so is Portland compared to Berlin. However, when it comes to having a distinct artistic voice, the TOC guide is equally thrilling and thriving. Unlike POTSE, TOC has curated their guide to encompass only the ultimate destinations – the crème de la crème that Portland offers. All tried, tested and trusted.

So, what’s refreshing about such a customized, aesthetically specific guide? Instead of creating competitiveness, they’ve managed to promote a sense of camaraderie among all the businesses listed. And that feeling of tribe also extends to the locals and tourists who make such great use of them. After all, who wouldn’t want a reliable recommendation for a place to eat or drink, art show to see or store to shop, especially while visiting a new city? And likewise, what like-minded entrepreneur would not wish to be part of the guide’s discerning and collaborative spirit?

While the Portland guide is not an art-fusion collaboration, being simply an initiative by an artistic company, we applaud their unique approach and progressive collaboration with competitive businesses to improve both their city’s image and the visitor’s experience. Even though guides like theirs may not be for everyone, they offer a craved-for opportunity to discover quality, authenticity and innovation, instead of the same-old–same-old.

In our next post we’ll zero in on our favourite art-fusion collaborations from Milan Design Week 2016. Till then.

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