‘Worldly Placelessness’ by Cher Tan​​

Melissa Mesku

[T]aste gradually becomes the same everywhere.

It has become a truism that certain cafes in Berlin or Hong Kong have the exact same aesthetic as Airbnbs in Portland or Melbourne, right down to the mason jars, unfinished wood tables and Edison pendant lights. A phenomenon first coined by writer Kyle Chayka as “AirSpace,” this uniquely un-unique aesthetic continues to dominate around the globe, particularly in places that want to convey “comfort and quality, at least to a certain connoisseurial mindset.” Haven’t traveled far? Not to worry; AirSpace is, quite frankly, to be found anywhere. You’ll know it when you see it: Even in Tulsa, it will look like Tulum or Tel Aviv.

In a recent essay, writer Cher Tan gives the notion of Airspace an added liminality. “A flat white sits in front of me, its latte art a perfect laurel, like the flat white I had in Penang four years ago, like the flat white I had in Prague two years ago, like the #flatwhites dotted across the Instagram landscape in Nanjing, Budapest, Turku, Chechnya. Where was I? Sometimes I could hardly know.” It makes for a kind of placelessness, one that, Tan says, “haunts every street, both as a spectre and a foreboding of the future.”

The Lifted Brow