To: Rob Mattson Neighborhood District Coordinator Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
You may have seen the email/link at EveryBlock on Murals to be painted out. Before I get into the substance I'd like show some photos I just took to show the condition of the murals, in case folks haven't had a chance to see them. (click to enlarge)
I shot these along N 63rd Street under Aurora:
These are on NW 57th under Greenwood, which is a charming entry to the Zoo, below:
I'd also like to preface my questions by pointing out that I have a soft-spot in my heart for murals in public. They can be idiosyncratic and add personality to a neighborhood. I wrote about murals on page 205 of City Comforts: How to Build an Urban Village.
That said, while I like murals I acknowledge that not everything works everywhere . Sometimes the party is over. But before I personally offer an opinion on what to do with the murals, I'd like to ask you the following questions and hope you have time to answer.
1. Have neighbors complained? In significant numbers?
2. What is the perceived urgency of painting over them? Is it a matter of public health, safety and morals?
3. What is the cost of painting over the murals? I assume that it is not huge but every penny counts. What's the cost comparison between "painting over" and "cleaming up"?
4. Who, or which division, made the decision to paint over the murals?
5. What outreach and inquiries been made to clean up the murals? i.e. to known muralists, neighborhood or arts groups?
6. Why suggest, as you do above, painting a new mural (presumably at the same site) when the City or sponsoring groups obviously are not able to keep them tidy?
I want to make it clear that my questions are not in the form of gotchas. I am genuinely curious. Sure, am I a bit skeptical now? Yes. But after reflection I might well agree that there is no choice but to destroy the little bits of social memory in the tunnels.
Personally, I don't find the existing murals — even with the graffiti — particularly offensive. They certainly do not show any vulgar/objectionable (e.g. racist or unpatriotic) language. But perhaps others disagree or there are some other policy/practical matters that I have missed.
Are they pristine and tidy? Probably not. But so what? We live in a city and I suspect that if you paint over the existing mural and create a bright clean clank slate, the City will simply be inviting taggers and graffiti-ists to do their thing. So what have you gotten you.
Btw, as a commercial property-owner I know that when finding graffiti, the typical and correct response is to get rid of it. ASAP. Immediately. Today. I just wonder if such response is appropriate for these murals.
In a Wednesday July 4, 2012 photo, Fair St. Louis air show enthusiasts huddle under the shadow of the Gateway Arch. With temperatures continuing in the triple digits, the moving shadow offered a respite to searing summer heat.
ROBERT COHEN / St. Louis Post-Dispatch
People knew that it was hot — and without having to be told — that it would be cooler in the shade.
Do you receive a Patagonia catalog once per month (on average)?
Or am I on a special customer list? Needing extra encouragement? (Which seems possible since I haven't bought anything from Patagonia for at least 3-4 years — I just simply don't need anything....oh not completely true: I could use a new pair of the Patagonia Stand Up Shorts.)
The catalogs are luscious eye candy, the models, the landscapes and even the clothes. And they get me going to check for airline tickets to exotic places, to the gym to try to look sleek and to wonder if I could throw out some old clothes so I could buy new ones. Yes, the Patagonia catalogs work.
But a mailed, shipped-by-oil, remnant of a tree every month? I am no hard-line sustainability geek — but are there no limits? To Patagonia catalogs? Or, are we running into reality — Patagonia is a business and everyone likes money (ownership and staff) and that simple fishing trip to Patagonia (the land) is not free. The issue is not Patagonia but how do we live lightly and yet luxuriously. Part of it is to buy things which last. But do I need a Patagonia catalog once a month? Apparently the Patagonia marketing people think I do — and who am I to disagree?
Here's the real-life dissonance, as delivered to my door, and on the approximate dates, (which from a marketing perspective is intertesting):
(click to enlarge -- and they really are lovely photos.)
I just wrote a post about Temple Grandin as urban designer? and I probably should modify my suggestion. Grandin might well be an urban designer but — with obvious reference to her work — perhaps her significance is as a transportation planner with particular emphasis on traffic-calming.
What did Grandin (most famously) do?
She calmed the cattle on its way into the slaughter house.
Without drawing too fine an analogy, what she was doing was "traffic calming." Yes it was animal behavior in general but very specifically she was observing and designing for calming cattle moving forward.
Now, as an aside, if there is one big thing wrong with the typical approach to "traffic calming" as an urban design practice, it is that there is too much emphasis on the "traffic" and too little on "the driver."
"Traffic" calming may be the goal but the means is really "driver" calming. That's a subtle but huge shift of perspective.
If Temple Grandin has design insights about cattle animals, she might very well have design insights about human animals.
Just recently, I watched the HBO movie Temple Grandin. The movie is well-worth watching. It was a surprise; I had no idea of her work beyond the name. But the moment I saw the movie, I said, "Hot damn! She's a designer! Wow! I'd like to ask her about cities!"
This section of Grandin.Com contains drawings of cattle corral designs with curved races. Curved cattle chutes are more efficient for handling cattle because they take advantage of the natural behavior of cattle. Cattle move through curved races more easily because they have a natural tendency to go back to where they came from. In the computer aided drawing section there are layout drawings of cattle yard designs for both large and small ranches and feedlots. There are also drawings of a cattle loading ramp for trucks, diagonal stockyard pens for cattle, and detail drawings of a single file race and cattle dip vat. If you are planning to build new corrals or other cattle handling facilites you can download blueprints of cattle pen layouts that will reduce stress on cattle and improve handling efficiency.
Temple Grandin is autistic. She has insights into animal behavior which makes the design of the slaughter process more humane. She changed the design (for example, closed sight lines and cleaning baths as one example) to lessen the terror of disturbed and confused the animals which create created fear and cost. As a woman, and autistic, she had to fight to get her ideas used.
Grandin was able to see a better and more humane (relatively-speaking) way to run a slaughter-house.
So might Temple Grandin have thoughts to offer about cities? At first glance, you'd think nothing. She's a country girl, spends her time on ranches...blah-blah-blah.
But wait a sec, what is urban design all about? It's about understanding human behavior to design more humane (comfortable in my terminology) cities. If Temple Grandin has design insights about cattle animals, she might very well have design insights about human animals.
Temple Grandin, by her own words as I understood, is not interested in individual people much less groups of people. That doesn't mean that she dislikes people but that because she is autistic she simply is uninterested in them. She doesn't relate to them — no life of the party! no hanging out in coffee shops! (Maybe I mis-understand, just my superficial take. And she sure seems like an amiable, open person so I'm a bit confused.)
Anyway, liking something and observing it are totally different things. You may study ants, or clouds or sub-atomic particles and gain great insights into them but not really like them. So it may be with Grandin.
So, I'd be very curious to hear what observations that Grandin might have about cities.
Or if she claims that she hasn't had any insights, I'd ask her to start taking a look at human settlements in her daily life and in her wider travels. Her insights may not bubble-up on their own but I wonder if in conversation with a skilled interlocutor, she might not say some very interesting things to say about cities.
So I just betcha that a woman who has insights into animal behavior and the design of spaces would have insights into human settlement.
What's wrong with this picture? Great ad but and you believe its sincerity? Might it it simply just a cleverer (and thus slimier way) to sell products? Create an institutional bond so the customer will think of Patagonia fondly? Or is life more complicated? Positive/negative, black/white. Yin/Yang, thesis/antithesis, all wrapped in one great jacket?
I love Patagonia products and have many of its items. (Though I haven't bought as many in the past few years because the colors are yucky.) Still, Patagonia is top-notch and I have never been sorry about buying anything.
BUT...I noticed something: a huge number of snail mail, paper catalogs. They are lovely and arousing for any materialist such as moi.
I've been keeping track of them for the past almost-a-year and steady as a rock, I get one every month, on average.