Archinect
anchor

Graffiti = Territory = Architecture?

So I have hit a wall with some site analysis that I've been doing this semester, and I thought I might reach out here.

How does tagging a particular building change the nature of the locality?

Is graffiti merely a superficial act, or does it entail broader implications of territorial claims and overlaps?

How can all of this be manifested in a architectural sense on several scales?

Those are the questions I'm dealing with, as applied to a particular low-income neighborhood in Dallas. I'm having trouble making the first move in designing, and have no precedents to guide the study of territory. H&dM applied it formally at 40 Bond, but I'm wondering if the territorial conflict that is graffiti can be embraced and reflected in an architectural sense.

I'm not trying to ask anyone to do my studio work, but I thought the conversation would be interesting regardless....

 
Mar 7, 09 8:26 pm
eCoDe

Physically, it is just a surface painting on a wall for graffiti;

Culturally, it could be a mirror reflecting to the local culture;

Socially, it could be a language communicating people passed by;

Symbolically, it could be a sense of metaphor ignites your imagination;

Archinectically, it could be a post you made here...


Mar 7, 09 8:56 pm  · 
 · 
binary

graf is different than gang tags...

gang tags are territorial

graf depends on the writer.... some like to tag/bomb..hit up the highest spots... be more articulate...

tags can be looked at as the 'logo' of a person/s ... practically the same as sticking a sticker of puma on the wall...

i really hope your not an out of towner trying to save the city..... urban/street cultures are just that.. you have to live in it to understand it...

Mar 7, 09 9:16 pm  · 
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fays.panda

im not sure i understand what you're looking for exactly,

but, on a literal level, architecture itself creates the opportunity for graffiti to exist,, however, the "need/desire" to do graffiti is usually a result of external factors

Mar 8, 09 7:06 am  · 
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fays.panda

how do you mediate?

Mar 8, 09 7:06 am  · 
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Per--Corell

And you do mean Grafitti, not StreetArt ? You are not talking about Murals, what do you focus, -- the random showoff, the messeages hidden so deep only inner circle can read them, or are you talking about the murals local people make. Here a painters work, is thought to be close related to buildings. A particular percenteage of the building costs, are to be used for decor or arts put on the buildings walls or as other decor. So Grafitti and architecture are an issue, it could be to little arts has been placed in or on buildings, and arts make its revenge by Grafitti.

Mar 8, 09 8:02 am  · 
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liberty bell

fays, I might disagree and say architecture - good architecture - denies the need for graffiti to exist, but built infrastructure (i.e., generally not well-designed) encourages it, and is oftentimes improved by it.

Didn't the early NYC graffiti scene really blossom around subway cars and the subway infrastructure (big blank walls)?

Mar 8, 09 8:22 am  · 
 · 
fays.panda

lb, i know what you mean, but, are you saying graffiti is bad? that its superfluous?

im just not sure it is,, but its true, theres something about infrastructure that attracts graffiti, perhaps its just easier to do them there and not get caught,, don't know

also, its a question of where do you draw the line between architecture and infrastructure,, for example, the wall israel is building is attracting alot of graffiti on the Palestinian side. its a wall, its not architecture, and not your typical piece of infrastructure, what is it?

Mar 8, 09 9:13 am  · 
 · 
fays.panda

theres something that attracts me to the idea that our work (as architects) is never done when we think it is,, it doesn only come in the form of graffiti though, sometimes its more invisible

Mar 8, 09 9:15 am  · 
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invisiblecanook

I'm definitely not proposing to stifle the tagging culture in the neighborhood...

and while I know that tags aren't necessarily territorial in a gang sense, I feel sometimes they represent territorial conflict on a small scale, especially when a proprietor paints over graffiti only to have that splotch of paint become a prime spot for taggers/bombers

I'm looking to embrace this kind of conflict (it doesn't seem violent, simply mischievous, for lack of a better word) and somehow manifest it architecturally. Hmm, I guess I would say I want to provide people with the means to mark their own place, but not in a superficial sense.

Basically, I've been thinking about all of this stuff since the semester started, but have no idea how to make the first move...

Mar 8, 09 10:32 am  · 
 · 
fays.panda

perhaps you're starting off to specifically,, i mean, does it have to be graffiti?

"I'm looking to embrace this kind of conflict (it doesn't seem violent, simply mischievous, for lack of a better word) and somehow manifest it architecturally."

You hit the nail there, you can start there, and if parts of it lead to graffiti, be it, but it doesn't have to only be graffiti, or be graffiti at all,, a simple example is skater boarders,, seems to me its the same as graffiti in some sense,, its definitely territorial, it actually creates a territory and then marks it,,, I dont know, try to start of general and narrow it down through your design,, dont force things

Mar 8, 09 2:27 pm  · 
 · 
newbrook

It seems anti-thetical to try to formally convey that which is fundamentally an informal and organic event (like the development of cities).

The 40 Bond grafitti fence is a poor slogan and a weak attempt to generate some connection between $12 million condos with a very anti-urban position and the the "grit" of the city by embracing it's own brand of graffiti.

I would ask whether you can find a project in looking at the tension between the infrastructure point made above and the issue of "good architecture" not attracting graffiti. The word good is an incredibly subjective notion of course and could be a departure point.

Of course, it seems establishing a position as to whether you believe graffiti is "good" or "bad" for building, city, society is important.
I see graffiti is an inherently selfish act, much like yelling in a crowd to focus the attention on oneself. I can find beauty in the peices themselves, but am less enthusiastic about one person(the graffiti artist) hijacking another individual's (the architect, building owner, engineer) communication (the building, wall, etc...).

Mar 8, 09 2:53 pm  · 
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1d2d3d4d

graffiti=fucked up neighborhood

quality of life issue,

graffiti artist terms: bomb, smash, kill, crush, destroy,

<object width="480" height="295"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/gU2qoEDSWeY&hl=en&fs=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/gU2qoEDSWeY&hl=en&fs=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="295"></embed></object>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU2qoEDSWeY

Mar 9, 09 9:45 am  · 
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FrankLloydMike

I think LB is right on, and that's the best, most succinct explanation behind the motivation for street art/graffiti (at least in terms of architecture)

Mar 9, 09 10:17 am  · 
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1d2d3d4d

Im guessing most of you know nothing about graffiti so i posted the above video so you can get a sense for the graffiti community

Mar 9, 09 10:20 am  · 
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toasteroven

I think you should definitely post your analysis once you figure something out.

you might want to identify the difference between innocuous tagging and gangs marking territory (like manhole said). Also - I think it would be interesting to make a regional map of certain tags - It could lead you somewhere... or not...

Mar 9, 09 11:22 am  · 
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rehiggins

why not broaden things a bit and analyze ways to take ownership of public space. . .there's a homeless person's way, the writer, the office worker, the ????

Mar 9, 09 11:29 am  · 
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Per--Corell

Yes LB is right on, and a lot of modern archiecture realy support pieces of art the best way it can be displayed, as Decor. but these are the best examples of putting paintings onto buildings, -- and that was before Grafitti.
Today many woud prefere images as projected onto surfaces, exeriments with forms and image, color and video. And these issues are far from Grafitti, mch StreetArt are far from Grafitti, it is like Grafitti have not evolved to speak of, for some years and ontop, "real graf painters" see themself as somthing special and other street art as an unwanted competitor for an audience that arts in general, would have to re-educate now art is more investment objects, than something to brighten your life. -- the letters are difficult if not impossible to decifer, and Grafitti as a whole, turn its back to audience. Still rafitti want to stay frozen in time, it is like Grafitti will not change and will not accept any further develobment, ---- I think the writers became to old, that that scene simply has been to closed, or maybe the visions was not that big.



Mar 9, 09 11:40 am  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]


3dditi
Mar 9, 09 1:45 pm  · 
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FrankLloydMike

I think toaster's suggestion is a very good one, and I think you'd find much better ways of appropriating public space by much more interesting groups to be honest.

Mar 9, 09 1:53 pm  · 
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ihearthepavilion

Toaster's suggestion as well as LB's comments are good ones. You might check with the local police department as often times they photograph and track tagging and graffiti (especially when it is gang related).

The problem with the HdeM solution as noted above is they made street art too pedestrian. Part of the allure is to paint or tag something you aren't supposed to. It is the same reason many public skate parks fail. It becomes too contrived and thus less authentic.

Mar 10, 09 4:24 pm  · 
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binary

it's almost like trying to design a room for 'breakdancers'

most heads don't really like the clean/mirrored spaces... but would rather practice at a spot that is less appealing

Mar 10, 09 4:35 pm  · 
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lekizz

I agree with rehiggins suggestion that graffiti is only one means of appropriating public space. Public space is, after all, public, a territory where we should all be able to take part and benefit. However much you try and dictate to people how they should behave, there are always many individuals and groups who would prefer to do otherwise.

Graffiti taggers can be the discontented teenager making their mark on their neighbourhood. Graffiti crews will often act as one to spread a group tag, to say they have been there, they are operating in that area, that they have stuff 'up'. There seems to be quite an etiquette to graffiti and street art. There often seem to be judgements made about whether a surface should be appropriated for graffiti, therefore I can believe that 'good' architecture (i.e. that gives something back to the public realm) would be less likely to attract aerosol artists.

Mar 11, 09 10:14 am  · 
 · 
Per--Corell

I think you are right, there wuld be no reson for StreetArt Murals if there are a genuine and beautifull architecture, -- these images allways act ugly on an allready ugly surface and realy, what many forget, that the wall would be ugly with or without Grafitti. Often you say "what ugly Grafitti, when what you shuld say, is "what ugly walls".

Mar 11, 09 12:29 pm  · 
 · 
pmark

Having just completed a comprehensive research study mapping graffiti within the Cuba district of Wellington, NZ I would be adverse to the notion that a 'beautiful architecture' will deter taggers and writers of existent subcultures. Our study demonstrated there is a much stronger link between graffiti typologies and pedestrian traffic/ surface texture/ etc than a 'targeting' of particular architectures. However one particular physical feature did categorically lend itself to the urban writer act rather well - the recess. Recesses on multi-scalar levels, from steel channels to doorways to entire urban blocks, were repeatedly targeted. To best understand where and at times why graffiti happens multiple reading a particular site are required in conjunction with an understanding of the graffiti typology occurring within that area of the city at which point the location of writing acts and their categorisation become for all intense and purposes a predictive exercise. The other notion of graffiti being ugly is very subjective and sense that such an interpretation lends itself to the notion that of urban writing being removed from the city. On this point I would be equally hesitant, having witnessed many pedestrians taking delight in reading urban writing. Sub-cultures exist regardless of what powers attempt to subvert it into non-existence - I believe it is the duty of the architect to mediate both perspectives. The simple fact that an individual foots the economic cost of a building in turn constituting a segment of the street does not strictly sanction them buying into a dictative right over the subversion of the urban writer and a pedestrians pleasure in admiring that work nor indeed their delight in scorning it. Does it? The urban frabric is much too rich for banality don't you think?

Mar 12, 09 6:18 am  · 
 · 
The simple fact that an individual foots the economic cost of a building in turn constituting a segment of the street does not strictly sanction them buying into a dictative right over the subversion of the urban writer and a pedestrians pleasure in admiring that work nor indeed their delight in scorning it.

in a word: YES.

whether the investment is on the part of an individual or a public institution, it is built and maintained by someone with responsibility for that place. the graffiti-maker/tagger has no such responsibility - is more like a hit-and-run.

a beautiful new stained cedar public park structure in one of our olmsted parks was tagged - not even well - and it's been a real problem getting rid of it. ultimately the parks system had to paint the structure because the wood/stain was ruined. this is a costly public investment, meant to benefit all, and MORE public tax dollars were required to deal with some asshole's momentary pleasure.

i admire graffiti art and think it's viable as an art-form, but am conflicted because i know that graffiti's roots are basically vandalism. anyway, it's no more socially/ethically acceptable than vandalism, litter, or public defecation in my mind.

our city also tried to give graffiti artists a sanctioned place to work - the underpass walls in our gallery district - an experiment that lasted a few months before it had to be shut down. participants couldn't help but mark adjacent buildings, destroy each other's work (and not by improving it, as graf rules usually suggest), and generally cause trouble in the neighborhood.

Mar 12, 09 7:58 am  · 
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www.graffitiresearchlab.com

Graffiti is an impulse to reach out and impact an environment that is rigid and unchangeable by the individual.

Architecture is a way to impact the environment through a regulated system.

Graffiti kind of 'de-architecturalizes' an environment by the declaration of public ownership. It blurs the graphic boundary of public and private.

It's a natural faculty of human beings to have an impact on their surroundings, from rock paintings and carving into trees, to skipping stones in a lake. The urban environment is restrictive and cuts off expression, graffiti is the output which harnesses that collective repression and puts it on display.

There are places where graffiti really works with the culture and feel of an environment, especially Barcelona. The place shows a mutual understanding between graffiti artists and the community. There is a sort of social contract that dictates where one should write and what should be kept as architecture.

Mar 12, 09 8:42 am  · 
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liberty bell
Graffiti is an impulse to reach out and impact an environment that is rigid and unchangeable by the individual.

But private infrastructure is not an unchangeable environment. You can own that building just as easily as I can. Public infrastructure is different.

Mar 12, 09 8:59 am  · 
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binary

most graf is locate where you can't see it....alleys/abandon buildings/etc.

some glimpses on fences and bridges....

Mar 12, 09 9:41 am  · 
 · 

i see it when it's painted on the garage doors in the alley behind my house. does the fact it's in alleys make it better?

Mar 12, 09 9:52 am  · 
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binary

better than a beater car and a couch on the front lawn....

Mar 12, 09 10:05 am  · 
 · 
But private infrastructure is not an unchangeable environment. You can own that building just as easily as I can. Public infrastructure is different.

Notice that I made the distinction between impacting an environment through a regulated system or through 'spontaneous' individual action.

Mar 12, 09 10:29 am  · 
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FrankLloydMike
Graffiti kind of 'de-architecturalizes' an environment by the declaration of public ownership. It blurs the graphic boundary of public and private.

I think democratizing architecture, access to planning and building, and the involvement of communities in shaping their environment are very important and laudable aims. I also think that when public needs are ignored or when inhumane architecture is built we are setting ourselves up for vandalism or public usurption, as well as neglect and decay. Building better, more humane architecture that responds to community needs is important, but let's not fool ourselves into believing that all--or even most--graffiti falls into the category of an attempt, much less an achievement, of taking public ownership. When graffiti is a political act (either as taking ownership of something unproductive to society or in contributing something beautiful) it can be productive, but far more ubiquituous is simple tagging, etc. which is anything but taking public ownership. At best it is leaving an individual, personal mark, and at worst it is a territorial claim. It is anything but public.

Mar 12, 09 10:30 am  · 
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liberty bell

Yes, mbergin, you did make that distinction. That distinction doesn't really hold water when it comes to property law, of course.

Mar 12, 09 10:35 am  · 
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1d2d3d4d

i think you people miss the point

graffiti is not some "defiant response to the banality of the urban
context" or some dumb shit like that

graf is about fun, adreneline and art

writers have hoods, writers have cities, writers have states,
the only territory is where a writer gets up and writers come and go and change locations.
a writer can get up anywhere as long as there's no disrespect.
disrespect=territory. you go over me, i'll go over you, you get up in a my city when there some beef you get taken out.
but heads go over each other for fame spots too or cause your work sucks.

people push crews so others know who they're down with.
so as to say, 'they're ok' or 'i have beef with them' or to hook up their friends.

as far as 'nice buildings= no graffiti' i think thats a half truth.
most writers dont give a fuck

pmark is closest to understanding here.

cop war 4 on dvd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU2qoEDSWeY




Mar 12, 09 10:41 am  · 
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FrankLloydMike

[sigh]fucking hipsters[/sigh]

Mar 12, 09 11:04 am  · 
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1d2d3d4d

hip to death

Mar 12, 09 3:22 pm  · 
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Medusa

Go get a copy of "Subway Art" by Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfant and you'll understand graffiti in about 5 minutes. It's not as esoteric as you're trying to make it.

Mar 13, 09 12:47 pm  · 
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21Ronin

I would not say that graffiti, street art, etc is about ownership. I don't think any graffiti artist would think that they own a wall, or a tagger owning the subway window, bus bench, mailbox, etc. Ownership of property only matters to those that don't want the street art there. If someone painted over someone's work w/ their own, the work is what the beef is about...not the wall. But writers don't have beef w/ the owner that sandblasts or paints over the whole wall.

One thing to think about is where graffiti (murals) happens within the cycle of development in cities. There is a strong connection to location in the city with respect to the status/socio-economic/zoning designation etc for the areas with high concentration of graffiti. Industrial areas, areas identified for large scale redevelopment plans, etc are areas that are prime for graffiti (murals). By murals, I don't mean the Mexican heritage mural produced by a neighborhood. I am talking about the bombers that are working w/ crews, characters and halls of fame happen in these places. I lived in Barcelona for 3 months and I was in a neighborhood (Poblenou) that had graffiti EVERYWHERE and took it on as a personal project.

Another thing to look into is how some starchitects are designing (Liebskind, Hadid, Koolhaus, De Muron, etc). If you look at the letter structure of some graffiti (mostly wildstyle and some 3d artists) you can see similarities in how they organize/experiment with their shapes, lines, color placement, voids and massings. Graffiti, as an architectural/urban planning research project, also has potential to be an aesthetic experiment for a design project for an architectural project (if you look in the right places).

Mar 19, 09 12:46 pm  · 
 · 
21Ronin

-- the letters are difficult if not impossible to decifer, and Grafitti as a whole, turn its back to audience. Still rafitti want to stay frozen in time, it is like Grafitti will not change and will not accept any further develobment,

Wow. I have never heard that one before. You like graffiti for what it is. They are not designers (people who create objects, images, graphics for a client). How can you possibly say that graffiti artists turn their back on their audience? First of all, they don't have an audience (nobody is there to watch). Second, the people that love graffiti verse themselves and learn about it to be able to read the "impossible to decifer" letters. You just need to look into it more. It's like saying architects have turned their back on students because it is hard (for some) to understand/comprehend.

Mar 19, 09 3:14 pm  · 
 · 
chatter of clouds

whats unique about graffiti is that it is an inisduous art, art that 'steals' a piece of public space in the span of a covertly snatched time. a pcikpocketing art...originally. of course, since its gained respectability in certain contexts, this is not always the case. if you take away this aspect of petty criminality and vandalism, doesn't graffiti become prey to the same form of art criticism as the more high brow forms? and if much of the now-sterile graffiti fails to achieve good grades artistically, what is its use other than urban-spamming? well, maybe its not really art, its more like non-authority-sponsered entertainment and signage. after all, people are more interested in the message it carries than the "visuals" ..which typically are very much in genre.

Mar 20, 09 2:59 pm  · 
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Per--Corell

-- Personaly I would prefere StreetArt allowed, places where you can have pieces approved to be relevant. That will newer be Grafitti, but it will offer the qualities some Grafitti pieces carry, made as a gift for the public, it also will clearly indicate, that pictures can be beautifull, that art can be something you instantly reconise. What else will happen to Grafitti except it over time will be painted over, -- the best pieces offcaurse first, --- soon everything will be called Grafitti even what newer was, or yo put it different, --- When did you last time, down a city street realise, how nice the houses realy are, --- That without all that ugly city sighns, it realy could be a beautifull site , thats without sighns.
First ban sighns, then allow a bit decor, splendid Decor.

Mar 20, 09 4:35 pm  · 
 · 
21Ronin

Well.....I'm not sure how to decipher what you just said, but I will give it a shot. Basically what I can pull from Per-Corell's post is that he thinks it should be regulated and restricted. Also, I gather that since it will be "limited" to designated places, this means that people will be able to recognize what "graffiti" actually is.

The best "pieces" aka "masterpieces" are kept around and writers that respect the work don't cover them. Graffiti can evolve and still be called graffiti. I think there are a couple important parts to this. First, graffiti is illegal and regulating graffiti will not do anything to it as an artform. Uncle Sam already tries to regulate it. So what you are saying only brings you back to the present. Writers also do it for the challenge and the thrill of being caught. In other words, I agree with noctilucent. Graffiti is illegal and if it was legalized, it would become something else.

Second point.......the places that you will find the best pieces will not be in a place where you would "plan" for it. Graffiti is scavenging or in other words, writers search for places to get up. The places where there is a lot of graffiti are not going to be where you would look around and say "this is a nice place". When you come across these places, you focus on the pieces and the environment isn't important. The types of places are more important than the actual place itself.

Mar 20, 09 5:04 pm  · 
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strlt_typ

i agree that part of the appeal of writing is the exhiliration of planning the logistics of illegally "bombing a spot". most writers come across a "spot" weeks in advance and the planning is part of the excitement. writers love talking about their newfound place, what makes the place special, and how they are going to execute the plan. attempting to legally 'program' and regulate where graffiti should take place will not eliminate those writing for the thrill of the planning/crime.

if you catalogued the places/surfaces that are most commonly written on, you will see that there are surfaces that are 'preferred'. there will be places/and surfaces that are almost never written on...

another aspect is that of the perception of neighborhood safety. the general public can not distinguish or do not care to to differentiate between gang tags and writing. to them the imagery is someone lurking around the neighborhood late at night while they were sleeping. scrawls on surfaces get lumped as one type while the personalities behind the tags are varied. i've met writers who strictly write on public infrastructure ( busses, telephone poles, etc). there are those who prefer the bold moves like freeway signs, billboards, rooftops. there are those who'd go on all night sessions while there are those who prefer the inconspicuous surfaces since the writings on those surfaces tend to last longer....etc.

re: the perception of safety...these might help
(the uses of sidewalk: safety - jane jacobs)
(broken windows - james q. wilson, george l. kelling)




Mar 20, 09 10:37 pm  · 
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Per--Corell

I could ad a link but this real story must be enogh. Therewas this caretaker who was fighting the Grafiti, guess in fact he was just helping prepare the new pieces and making sure the writing only was in those perfect places on the facade of the building. He even tried soap, brown soap as he thought that would keep new Grafitti away, --- then the huge glass doors was decorated, the wall inbetween the nice squares was painted. Afte having the facade ceaned severl times he turned to a local artist ; better to have a say in deciding the painting.
Now for 12 years it has been the same nice decor that has been left there in peace, --- it is difficult without pictures to tell ths true story, and I know of no other place where a simular entrance to the problem solved it, but knowwng this caretaker the house and listening to and following the event, told me that if you do the right thing, something can be done about it. --- Sorry but english as you know, is no my prme language, and ontop I bought this new silli rubber keyboard.

Mar 21, 09 8:15 am  · 
 · 
21Ronin

I think what you just wrote explains the way that writers/bombers respect good work. There are general rules that show graffiti isn't just out to write over anything and everything. It is situational and in this case, the owner of this building just gave in and decided who was going to have their work shown on their own property. Apparently, the artist that was hired was good enough to where other writers would not write right over it.

Mar 21, 09 1:17 pm  · 
 · 
Per--Corell

Exactly, and it made me realise the same at that point some 15 years ago. But exacty this building is in a street acting a shortcut to one of the places every writer here in this town visit several times a year. --- so with that heavy trafic for so many years and yet no overpainting, it prove what you say is true to count on, one just has to understand how things work.
---------It also mean that an architect who know, can put up solutions.

Mar 22, 09 8:36 am  · 
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lekizz

Bristol, the city in southwest England (and also where Banksy cut his teeth) solves some of its graffiti 'problem' by making some effort to decorate its underpasses, carparks, empty hoardings etc. There has been a large amount of building work taking place in the city centre with many temporary timber fences and walls and I can see some effort has been made to put up artwork, paint temporary murals or hold competitions for local schoolchildren. As far as I can see, surfaces that have been given some public-spirited attention don't get bombed or tagged.

There is even a "people's"political regeneration group that aims to decorate parts of the city with quality graffiti!

It is a sort of "if you can't beast them, join them" type of approach which I wish my own city would embrace!

Mar 24, 09 9:14 am  · 
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