Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Guest Post from Bobby: Billboards of Western Ave.

One of the first things I noticed about Los Angeles is the hyper-abundance of billboards. Everywhere you go there are huge billboards looming over you. Apparently this is the result of the most lax billboard and advertising regulations in the country, as the group Ban Billboard Blight will tell you. I am interested in the infrastructural form that this advertising takes, and how they are integrated (or not) into the urban landscape.

The most common design is the monopole billboard, which are present at almost all of the strip malls that line the streets of LA. The monopole billboard requires only a few square feet of space on the ground, but then cantilevers it's rectangular form over parking lots, sidewalks, and buildings. It essentially allows a billboard to be placed anywhere there is airspace, regardless of what is under it. This results in the strange situation of walking under these massive advertisements on a daily basis. Since the pole enters the ground at only one point, this gives the structure freedom to go almost anywhere.

The billboard also has a certain amount of structure associated with it, it is not just a sign. It needs a platform for workers to stand on when changing the sign, as well as metal girders and structure to hold the heavy vinyl image up. When driving down the street you don't really notice these elements, but because these billboards often stuck in pedestrian environments, you are confructed with their infrustructural complexity and mass. For example, I took this picture from the second floor of a strip mall of the back of a billboard. This giant mass looming over the parking lot certainly dominates your view from this perspective. The aggressive cantilever that most billboards have adds to their ungainliness, as they look very unbalanced. This extreme cantilever is why the main pole is so large in circumference. It needs to support the very unbalanced load that is pulling down and to the side.

With this billboard you can see that the main support is much smaller because this billboard is actually balanced over it's support, instead of cantilevered to the side. Note again that from the pedestrian perspective the infrastructure of the sign, rather than the advertisement dominates. The worker platform, lights and girders dominate from this perspective.

More billboardery to come...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Biking in South Orange County

That's right, I took a break from density and rode around the suburbs on Monday. I had an appointment near the mall in Laguna Hills, so decided to ride my bike from the Irvine train station rather than wait for three buses in order to travel five miles.
I used the Orange County Transit Authority's (OCTA) bike map, and found that it pretty accurately indicated the routes I encountered. There was some typically difficult stuff, like the bike lane disappearing right at a busy intersection with lots of strip mall driveways dumping out and sucking in cars, but for the most part the ride was downright pleasant. Leaving the Irvine train station you ride past the mysterious strawberry fields and get a view of the "Great Park." Actually I rode past a sign that said something about proposed homes and shopping centers in the Great Park. So, folks, don't know what a park is, eh? Think it's just another simulacrum for your themed subdivisions, huh?
Development-rage aside, the well-ordered subdivisions of Laguna Hills ushered my bicycle through their midst with nary a problem.
After that I took a bus to Laguna Niguel and then rode into San Juan on Camino Capistrano. This ride takes you along the lovely creek corridor that hugs our little green hills. There are various farms in various states of disrepair along this ride on one side, and the 5 freeway on the other.

View Larger Map

The next morning, having stayed over in SJC for the night, I took a train back up to Irvine and rode in to UC Irvine. I've done this ride a few times now, and it's grown on me. At first I felt like Irvine's extensive bike lanes and bikeways were an insult to riders, since they pretend like one can ride around suburbia just fine, but now I have to agree. There are some nice bits of the ride, manicured though they may be. Don't get me wrong, I'm not gonna get all DJ Waldie about this and condone the suburban lifestyle, but I did enjoy riding in a city where there's no street parking. Riding is more fun when there are less cars.