Khris Soden’s The Portland Tour of Tilburg sets up an interesting juxtaposition of two similar cities: Portland, OR and Tilburg, Holland. Khris Soden leads a walking tour through downtown Portland all the while describing the city of Tilburg. Booklets filled with photographs of Tilburg are provided to help the tour group visualize their new surroundings. A pile of newspaper stands chained to a traffic pole becomes a statue dedicated to Tilburg’s blue collar roots. A Carl’s Jr. burger shop becomes a “White Castle” in the middle of a large public square. And through this description of a similar city across the world, I began to think about Portland in a different light.

One of the first things I began to notice was that Tilburg is all diagonals as opposed to our very logical and regular grid. Every street in downtown Portland is more or less the same width running in the cardinal directions. Tilburg on the other hand has intersections of just three roads, or five or more. The streets are all different widths, some being little more the alleys only navigable by pedestrians and bicycles. The tour group had to jog back and forth through the grid to roughly stay on course with the distant roads we now found ourselves traveling.
Another thing I really appreciated was how I began to notice aspects of the built environment of Portland that I normally ignore. Throughout the tour Khris is pointing to objects that are clearly not those being described. But through it I noticed small plaques, or a huge jumble of newspaper stands that are very much a part of our city, though I think we often times gloss over them.
As the tour went on I began to get a clearer idea of the culture in Tilburg and how it’s shaped the city. Maybe more importantly I began to think about the dialog our city and our culture and how each shapes the other.
Posted By: Matthew