Alumni Spotlight: PANOS BOURLESSAS

According to Vanity Fair, “the Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.” Inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, we have put together a set of 32 questions designed to reveal the true nature of 4CITIES alumni. Or to at least give us some insight into what they are up to and what makes them, as students of “the urban”, tick.

1. What is your name?
Panos Bourlessas.

2. Which 4CITIES cohort were you a part of?
Cohort 04 (2011-2013). 

3. Where and when were you born?
Patras, Greece, in 1986.

4. Where did you grow up?
Vartholomio, Greece. 

5. What did you study before 4CITIES?
Business Administration.

6. Why did you join 4CITIES?
I wanted to change the focus of my studies and keep studying.

7. What is your fondest memory from 4CITIES?
Claudia pulling me inside a restaurant during a field trip so that I would be the first one to start eating given that I am a slow eater and we only had 45 minutes.

8. What was the most important thing you learned from 4CITIES?
Sharing (in any form) is essential to opening up one’s mind.

9. What (if anything) have you studied since 4CITIES?
PhD in Urban Studies.

10. Where do you live now?
Florence, Italy.

11. Where else would you like to live?
Rome, Italy.

12. Which city have you never visited but would most like to?
São Paolo.

13. Where is your favorite non-urban place to be?
My grandparents’ place on Zakynthos.

14. What kind of work are you currently doing?

15. What other work have you done since graduating?
Receptionist at a campsite, PhD.

16. What job would you most like to attempt?
University teacher.

17. What urban-related job does not exist but should?
Urban socializer: going around the city in order to create random tiny social contacts with people in the streets.

18. What about cities do you enjoy the most?
The spectacle of fitting too many people in limited space, getting lost, anonymity.

19. What about cities do you enjoy the least?
Lack of personal space, commodification, alienation, spectacularization, economic extraction and exploitation.

20. What about cities do you find most interesting?
Complexity and the generating of endless questions.

21. What about cities do you think is over-emphasized or over-hyped?
Cities themselves.

22. What about cities do you think is under-appreciated?
Animals, kids, imagination.

23. Why do you think urban studies is important?
It goes beyond disciplinary boundaries, or at least tries to.

24. What is one myth about cities that you would like to bust?
That they can be sustainable.

25. If you could time travel, what city and year would you visit?
Interwar Athens.

26. What is your favorite imaginary city (from books, movies, etc.)?
I don’t have any.

27. What would you like real cities to learn or take from this imaginary city?
Subverted power relations (from an imaginary city I just invented in my little head).

28. What books, authors, or films would you recommend to someone who wants to better understand “the urban”?
Italo Calvino.

29. What changes would make cities more livable?
No cars, stop to privatizations of urban land, social housing everywhere, slowness.

30. What are the most important changes cities must make in response to the sustainability crisis?

31. If you could change one thing about your city, what would it be?
Ban US people from visiting and consuming it.

32. What question have I not asked that you would like to ask other 4CITIES alumni?
How do you deal with 4CITIES nostalgia, if any?


You can find Panos at the University of Florence.