Posts tagged “public space”

Our latest article: Kilroy Was Here

Our latest interactions column (written by Steve Portigal and Julie Norvaisas) Kilroy Was Here has just been published.

Reviled or celebrated, graffiti is ubiquitous in even the least-urban environments. With roots in the wall-scrawled slogans of ancient Greece, it is a physical yet ephemeral expression of the personality of a neighborhood. It allows us to see a colorful trail of inhabitants’ interactions with public spaces. Graffiti (or street art, or urban art) has been displayed in (and arguably corrupted by) art exhibitions, influenced fashion and pop culture, and generated revenue for municipalities and the paint-removal industry alike. Of course, it’s largely illegal. It’s everywhere, and we are grateful. Perhaps we are drawn to the element of danger that feeds street art, and the rebellion implicit in its enjoyment (probably the same reasons we loved the Fonz!)…We find ourselves considering the street art of one city, or neighborhood, or corner, as a whole, compared to what we know from other cities, neighborhoods, and corners. What elements make them visually distinct? What might these observations say about the culture or history of the location? How does one graffito fit into the larger context of surrounding graffiti? We can channel our inner visual anthropologist, uncovering signs not only of the times but also of the place.

Get the PDF here and let us know what you think. Do you follow street art? What do you like about it? Share your pictures with us!

And, here are some photos to supplement the article

Previous articles also available:

Anti-skateboard devices on the Embarcadero

Last year Nicolas Nova blogged about element of public space that restrict usage – specifically skateboarding, and as one commenter suggested, lying down. Without remembering his post, I took these pictures the other day:


It’s still ugly, but there’s an emotional component (“cute” – “fun” – “neat”) created by the whimsical shapes that counteracts that reaction quite strongly. Many of the anti-sit installations appear as an afterthought, a post-design, without any integration into the original vision. These were probably added after the original design but there’s some attempt to retrofit, conceptually or visually. I’m sure the original planners and architects are horrified, but it kinda mostly works.

Context is King

The landscape is forever changing in little ways, writes SF Chron architecture critic John King, and he identifies several defining artifacts of 2006

  • Security barriers
  • Solar panels
  • Traffic calmers
  • Anti-skateboard clips
  • Wireless cafes

Of course, it’s not the list itself that is noteworthy, but his articulate and provocative analysis that underlies the reasons for these newly emergent artifacts. What do these things tell us about what’s going on around us? Context is king, isn’t it? I highly encourage you to check out the article!


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