London-based graphic designer James Reynolds posts up on abandoned buildings and gets some love for it. It is nice to see such a simple and sincere concept for public art.
An article in re:place, a Vancouver based public space magazine, considers the public rhetoric of streetposters.
To some, posters might be seen as little more than crass, obtrusive clutter. Yet for others they are essential to the lifeblood and culture of a place. Thus, it is important to understand the forces and attitudes that lie behind street posters and the things that allow them to keep popping up even in places they are not supposed to. Their existence is tenuous, but the role of posters in public life should not be overlooked.
…street posters also reflect something deeper: the creativity, entrepreneurship, passion and political ideals of communities…
As much as urban enthusiasts might fantasize about the city as a place of surprise and wonder, there is also an opposing tendency to contain, define, and regulate public spaces. Ironically, the lack of formal respect for street postering is partly a function of the fact that posters represent culture without permission and, almost by nature, are not intended to be formal or particularly orderly.
No doubt the internet and social networking sites (in particular) have taken on an expanded role in the public sphere, disseminating information and building community. But these mediated forms ultimately do not work on the same tactile level. Think of street posters as part of a broader community dialog: one in which anyone with an idea, a message, and a willingness to put in a little effort can participate in.
Postering, at its core, is culture without permission. The lack of formality and established order are what give street posters a unique kind of validity. There are layers upon layers of significance both in the act of postering and the posters themselves that speaks to the need for negotiating between order and disorder. Posters themselves are not an end. What is more important is that such negotiations happen.
A short article and slide show from the NY Times looks at vanishing Newsstands in NY and suggest that they signify the pedestrian vitality and cultural character of the city. “Each reflects the personality and business acumen of its owner as well as the needs and tastes of its neighborhood.”
This form of street vending is threatened by increasing regulation, cost of operation and a new partnership with Cemusa.
Mine is probably only found on the shelves of the library but these theoretical meanderings are one of my muses. One of my favorites is the online journal Urban Reinventors. In the latest issue, Celebrations of Urbanity, the introduction by Alessandro Busà “deconstructs the rhetoric of urbanity”.
Busà suggest that “In a new, after-modern era wherein the notion of urbanity is widely celebrated, bill boarded and squeezed into an often narrow iconic vision by realtors, private enterprises as well as by entrepreneurial administrations, our first aim must be to question, challenge and re-discuss urbanity.”
Busà then describes some of the existing models
We have the archetypal Jane Jacobs’ urban model of Manhattan’s West Village, with its narrow lively streets, its short blocks, its mix of old and new architectural styles, its density of smallscale retail and its pedestrian friendliness.
We have the “dirty” urban model of places such as Jackson Heights in New York’s borough of Queens, where urbanity results from the crowding of people of all races mingling together in a multicultural, chaotic, untidy and extremely lively environment.
We have the selective urbanity of the gentrified city, home to Florida’s “creative class”, such as the new downtowns in Berlin Mitte, in Paris’ Le Marais or in London’s East End, with their array of Starbucks cafés, lounge bars and trendy commercial streets.
We have the “urban renaissance” model, such as the new Covent Garden in London, where a brand new urbanity made of polished architectures, fine stores and coffee tables in the streets are mostly catering to gentrifiers and tourists, and where a strong surveillance through cameras and police guards is constantly needed.
We have the “festival marketplace” model of a nostalgic, inauthentic urbanity, invented or reinvented as a commodity for mass tourism.
We finally have the New Urbanist model, with its brand new, if often historicist, architectures, its pedestrian oriented environments, its dense urban fabric, its promises of an urban quality of life unknown to most US dwellers.”
What is important here is to investigate whether urbanity may be the answer to our concerns of social inclusion, tolerance, quality of life, individual and collective fulfillment. And if so, what kind of urbanity do we stand for?
This is an interesting strategy being tested in Philly to slow drivers. The 2d painted surface appears to be 3d to oncoming drivers causing them to slow down.
Seems a bit dangerous, but oddly similar to some street artist work. I’ll bet the city gets some calls because of this.
I don’t mean to pick on Lavomatic, or the other merchants in the Gateway Quarter. Honestly, I think that these places are great and are a crucial part of what is needed for OTR to be a healthy neighborhood. But, as some know, this blog started with a post about the Gateway Quarter as an example of place branding. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of these ideas four months later in the context of an article written about Lavomatic.
More interesting to me than the specifics of this instance are the perceptions and portrayals of transitioning urban neighborhoods in general. The article is primarily about the food and is written by a food critic, so the comments should be understood in that context. I am not trying to devalue the point of the article because it is well written and does exactly what it is supposed to. This is interesting to me because of its relationship to place branding. It is not an expert urbanist’s perception of the neighborhood, but has some implications for thinking about the Gateway Quarter as a place.
The article starts by commenting that “It’s a big scary world out there. So it’s good to find a place that creates its own cozy corner of it, a restaurant with a well-developed sense of where exactly it is.”
I’m not sure how this was intended, but in the context of what follows and the general perception of its location I read a big scary neighborhood. Also, I’m interested to know how this “well-developed sense of where exactly it is” relates to this big scary world.
The article then mentions that “Lavomatic is a cornerstone of the neighborhood that’s evolving as the Gateway Quarter on the blocks of Vine Street north of Central Parkway.” Cornerstone might be an overstatement, but it is important
What my initial post eventually alluded to, is that the development of the Gateway Quarter in being conflated with OTR. Effectively, psychologically isolating an area from the perceptions of its surroundings neighborhood and carving a safe space in the contested territory that is OTR. This has some value, but my opinion is that it can also be detrimental to building a tolerant community. My concern is still that this might be divisive and exclusive.
The introduction concludes by describing Lavomatic.
“In a former laundry (lavomatic, in French) it has a homey theme evoking freshly washed clothes and domesticity. Close to the Art Academy, Know Theatre and Ensemble Theatre, it also feels arty and urban-cool. It’s a neighborhood restaurant worth traveling to.”
“Evoking freshly washed clothes and domesticity” is awesome and I’ll let the “arty urban-cool” go because its exactly what my mother would say. But a “neighborhood restaurant worth traveling to” made me think for a minute. And I still feel a bit puzzled. Is it a neighborhood restaurant that those who live here can enjoy or a place that requires outsiders to travel?