Good Taste: Neon in the City

ablarc

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#1
GOOD TASTE: Neon in the City


If you’re like me, you have mixed feelings about advertisements in the city.

We all have our favorite freeway-to-skyline view messed up by a misplaced billboard.

But I bet most of us really dig Times Square:



Every night-time entertainment district should be encouraged to provide neon.



Robert Stern, the architect who planned Celebration, also rewrote the zoning for Times Square. He wrote a requirement for signs into the zoning for new buildings when Disney got involved.




To the gratification of some and the dismay of others, some sleaze is returning to Times Square, in spite of Disneyfication:



Yeah, who says…? Not Jenna Jameson. And not Pamela Anderson:












Skivvies in the snow:



When it comes to advertising that lights up, Hong Kong is New York’s peer, but for different reasons.

For one thing, whole skyscrapers are covered in Hong Kong without any pretense that it’s part of the architecture. You can get a really distant view onto the neon from across the harbor in Kowloon:



For another thing, neon is more interesting than plasma screens, because—being old tech-- it seems more miraculous, like the Wright Brothers’ airplane.

Also, most of us can’t read Chinese characters, so the inane advertising message is not part of what we see, just abstract calligraphic patterns.

Finally, the sign ordinance is much less limiting about placement. In Hong Kong, you can actually span the street. At night, you are in an outdoor room, complete with a ceiling of light:














In the daytime, it looks like this:




Some places in the city it makes sense to soft-pedal good taste. Here, imo, is another such place:

http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?s=&postid=112795#post112795


The New York photos in this post came from various places on Wired New York:

http://forums.wirednewyork.com/
 
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BKM

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#2
Pretty cool photos-I especially like some of the Hong Kong shots.

Chinese cities are so "over-the-top" (from photos, at least :))
 
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#4
ablarc said:
GOOD TASTE: Neon in the City
Robert Stern, the architect who planned Celebration, also rewrote the zoning for Times Square. He wrote a requirement for signs into the zoning for new buildings when Disney got involved.

To the gratification of some and the dismay of others, some sleaze is returning to Times Square, in spite of Disneyfication:
So he's responsible for the disneyfication of Times Square.

Whats wrong with slease in Times Square? Some call it (or called it) the crossroads of the world. It was there (slease) when nobody wanted to invest in times square, but now all these corporate company's have to have humongous signs to get there point across; that seems more sleasy to me than the filtration that took place after years of disinvestment. At least some slease adds some color to a world thats becoming more and more sheltered.

BTTP, you can't have every place in the world looking the same, because it then becomes homogenius and monotinus (sp? surely off). Sure some may find that pleasing, but to most who live there and visit, it is somewhat boring, sort of like disney's planned towns of the future. Sorry to rant, but thats just how I see it.
 

ablarc

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#5
City Lights

Most major cities have a place where large illuminated signs could be appropriate. We all know about Piccadilly Circus and Las Vegas, but how about these potential candidates:

Boston: Kenmore Square
San Francisco: Union Square
Paris: La Defense
Cincinnati: Fountain Square

New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, Berlin, Genoa and Los Angeles are other obvious cities whose character could be enhanced by encouraging neon in one or more location.

Pittsburgh used to have a great moving Westinghouse sign. Does anyone remember it?

Finally, what Chinatown would not benefit from more neon?
 

martini

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albarc, thanks for the post. I like what you're doing here. Pictures are able to convey information so much faster than words. Some might say its a tad confusing, but your points are taken by me for sure. Your point of view is good too. Good and critical, but not overly so. Keep it up! I want more.
 
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#7
Re: City Lights

ablarc said:
Pittsburgh used to have a great moving Westinghouse sign. Does anyone remember it?
I remember they had a huge clock on Mt. Washington in picksbarg that said "Bayer" (as in the aspirin) in between the time. I can't remember the westinghouse one though.
 

H

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#9
I am all for the neon in the city. It brings a downtown to life creating personality and awe. However, outside of the urban core I become very anti light pollution.

As far as the sleaze, I am not bothered by it and think that people who are should get over it. Sex sells, so sleaze is obviously what the majority wants (even though they wont admit it).

PS: very cool phictures.
 
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#10
The AmericasMart complex in downtown Atlanta would be a good candidate for the neon treatment. The buildings were designed by John Portman during a period when walking down the street mean you would get mugged or shot. As a result, the buildings are basically huge fortesses of unbroken concrete walls. They scream out to have some kind of large scale neon sign installed. The biggest thing to keep this from happening is that the point of advertising is to be seen and that part of downtown doesn't get enough foot traffic (afterall, who wants to walk through boring 15 story concrete canyons with mostly loading docks at the street level).

The Hong Kong pictures are amazing. I'm glad I can't read most of it since as the poster pointed out, to my eyes they look like elaborate shapes instead of advertisements.
 
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#11
ah yes, nice pictures.

i was personally a bit disappointed when i realized that chicago didn't really have an equivalent to times square (i don't think many do). michicigan avenue had a few moments of massive plasma screen delight, but nothing so delighfully over-the-top and wonderfully commercial/capitalistic as to provide such great sense overload (no sarcasm here; visceral thrills are nice, plus, provide quite a bit of street activity as the sun goes down).

i honestly don't mind the "sleaze" in times square; i don't really mind sleaze anywhere. i think america has gotten way too concerned with offending some sect of the population and lost its sense of humor. equal opportunity offenders forever!!

(think of how different The Far Side or Bizarro might be if they actually listened to Amnesty Internationals complaints about their content... thank god some "sleaze" persists; a disney world is a boring world)

this is sort of a corrolary to the honk kong section linked here, but i just thought i'd like to mention it, since it is on-topic with regards to times square; aside from plasma screens and the like, does american architecture really go for the whole-building-as-ad appeal? one thing that impressed me about a pic i saw of soeul was how this entire side of a 50-or-so-story building was an advertisement, specially adapted to the unique shape of the building. much more interesting to see than a glass/concrete wall (which tends to get old after a while... come on, americans, innovate!)
 
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#13
neon....in suburbia, too.

Theres sort of a faux "Times Square" being developed in Columbus, in the "Arena District", with these giant trinitron or plasma screen image boards mounted on a parking garage facing the arena, with the parking garage done up to resemble a loft industrial building (in fact thats the whole theme of the Arena District...an ersatz "industrial loft" district).

As for neon, I can think of a few 1950s/60s suburban strips that could use even more neon and guady signage to make them interesting. Theres this tendancy to "tidy up the strip", when this just makes these suburban environments duller.

BTW, great pix from Asia. I really like the way they use those overhead signs.
 

H

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#14
Trinity Moses said:
As for neon, I can think of a few 1950s/60s suburban strips that could use even more neon and guady signage to make them interesting. Theres this tendancy to "tidy up the strip", when this just makes these suburban environments duller.
Well said. How much of this boring tidying up and homogenizing of suburbia comes from our boring homogeneous American zoning code that most cities have adopted and how much is market driven? I think the later is slightly less influential here. :p
 
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#15
Even though I generally disagree with the usage of neon signs and billboards, especially when there's an influx of them within a short distance of each other in an area, they have certainly defined a large part of Times Square's character, which I love. :-}
 
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