The hollow city
I was doing some blog management, and found this post written but never posted. It seems to touch on some recurring themes of mine.
I developed a mild obsession when in Prague with the huge outdoor advertisement for Nivea at the top of this post. We were staying a short distance from the centre, and the sign was right by the hotel, attracting the attention of drivers as they joined one of the freeways out of the city.One had to admire the scale: as the photograph shows, the execution (as advertisers say) involved the whole of one side of an empty building four storeys high and about forty metres long. The advertisement has been tailored to fit the contours of the roof as the building climbs a hill. The engineering was impressive too. Inspection revealed that the poster hoarding had been welded onto the side of the building, which had once upon a time been – well, I don’t know: a warehouse, perhaps, or a light industrial factory.
Reduced to a sign
In other words something which used to have a social form and function, embedded in a place and carrying within it a network of relationships and flows, is reduced to a sign, literally, detached, disembodied, almost dematerialised, more or less as John Urry and Scott Lash predicted 20 years ago.
What’s strange to me is that we don’t find this more strange than we do. It says a lot for our times that an advertisement can carry more value than a building.
The picture at the top of this post was taken by Andrew Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.