A Delicate Balance

4 thoughts on “A Delicate Balance”

  1. I’ve encountered this in towns where I work where people are afraid of decline and it is expressed in particular in a desire to control signs. Where a property is under common ownership, they want the signs to all match… and i can’t help but think that it is more a piece with a strip mall than a vibrant main street. Actually having a variety of colors and designs makes for a more interesting street… but there’s fear there. What they really want is the appearance of wealth; consistancy can be done with high quality materials and high end businesses or with poorly maintained cheap materials. Same for diversity. To the extent that the flight to the suburbs was part of a continous effort to leave poverty behind as it chases us this seems a piece. It’s the underlying culture of fear and desire for control, a culture that is hard to change, that makes me most skeptical about the future of suburban retrofit. In the end, it’s not the physical plant that’s hardest problem. It’s culture. I think that may be true wherever you are.

    1. Signs in a auto-oriented context have a different effect than in a walkable context, though. In a walkable context signs are placed on buildings and don’t change what you see. In an auto-oriented context, most signs are free-standing, often on posts, and obscure such buildings and people are there. They make these places look even more barren and less inviting than they are anyway. Who wants to stand by themselves in a forest of signs next to a traffic sewer with nothing to do?

  2. Great piece. You’re a sorely needed voice in the emerging landscape that is beginning to tackle the improvement of sprawl and the peripheries of places. Your appreciative and inquisitive tone will go a lot further toward helping people fix and re-plan their own places – than some of the other voices out there that are making points/illustrations in support of larger change.

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