Last night I went to a discussion lead by five panelists, titled “The Visual Ecology of Advertising and Architecture”, which addressed the ever-consuming nature of billboard advertising in Los Angeles. For those of you who live in LA, or have been back recently, have you noticed the digital billboards (there are about 100 in the city), the ones that change every 8 seconds? That might be a silly question, I mean, how could you not? The fervor that surrounds this steadily-growing issue of billboard growth is also something to take note of, which the MAK Center for Art and Architecture boldly addressed in their latest project: How Many Billboards? This large-scale urban project presents 21 newly commissioned artworks by leading contemporary artists on LA billboards. The 21 billboards around the city exhibit works that are meant to bring us out of our numbness and pull us back to thinking about advertising, shared public space, and the quality of life in the city which we live. Here are a two billboards, for all 21 click here.
The panel last night addressed not so much the art aspect of these billboards, but how billboards fit into city planning and the upcoming “sign district” ordinance which will be voted upon in the next couple of months. What is interesting is that some of the panelists were not opposed to signage or massive billboards, but rather were for finding a compromise and letting communities find their own destinies. One panelist, Bill Roschen, Principal of Roschen van Cleve Architects, spoke of the historical significance of signage, especially in Hollywood and its more defined commercial nature compared to the rest of the areas in LA. Additionally, Roschen spoke of the Sunset Strip and its concentration of massive signs, one after another, and how this experience is something very specific and defines this area. Roschen brought up an interesting point that architecture makes public space, and in LA that has not always been successful. He noted that in the appropriate places signage has the ability to do space-making, however it is dependent upon being unique and inventive.
Overall the discussion brought up some very thought-provoking questions about shared public space and the role of advertising and billboards in shaping a city. The panel was co-presented by the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, and was held at SCI-Arc in Downtown Los Angeles (which is a really great space).