Saturday, 17 March 2012

Big billboards: for or against?

Evidently they work. Towards the end of the 1990s, billboards covering entire buildings began to emerge in Warsaw. At first, they would cover façades of building undergoing remont, the money from the advertising contributing towards their cost. But advertisers' appetites for mega-format outdoor ads could not be satisfied by a handful of properties that happened to be in the process of being done up. The Universal S.A. office building (below, which for the last nine years is awaiting demolition prior to replacement by a newer development) has been a long-standing massive billboard.

Further along Al. Jerozolimskie, the corner of ul. Krucza (below). To the left, a privately-rented block of flats, an ad a mere four stories high. Across the road, Dom Handlowy Smyk, a lovely piece of functionalist architecture (built 1948-52) is hidden from view by massive billboards. More examples of Warsaw's mega-adverts here and here.

Below: flats on the corner of Al. Jerozolimskie and ul Marszałkowska, also covered by an ad for a TV programme. This form of outdoor advertising is becoming more and more prominent. The question is - should it be allowed? Gazeta Stołeczna is publishing critical articles, saying the mega-billboards make our city look ugly, block sunlight coming into people's flats and, at night when the ads are illuminated, they make it difficult for tenants to sleep.

I'd qualify that. Some buildings should not be covered up because they are architecturally significant (certainly the Smyk buiding, that defied the Socialist Realist orthodoxy of the time). But generally, plain 1960s wielka płyta blocks have no redeeming features, and the
Mad Men opening credits-type urban vista pleases my eye.

The problem lies with the individual liberties of the people in the flats. They are paid, indirectly, through reduced rents (the money goes to the housing co-op allowing them to pass on savings to their tenants). Even if a majority of tenants want the billboard, there will be a minority who are annoyed by the ads, the blocked windows and glare at night.

How to square this matter is a tricky problem for all concerned. Question is - do the rest of us, citizens, passers-by, object, or even care? Please fill in the poll at the top (active for a week).

Poll result:
42% of readers call for a total ban on large format advertising, 50% want to see the large billboards on some buildings only, 3% are in favour of no restrictions, 3% don't care one way or the other.

This time two years ago:
Lenten recipe with prawns

This time three years ago:
Polish economy - recession thwarted


Neighbour said...

Not at all!
Buildings have facades, not billboard frames. I can't understand why we have to suffer from this, excuse my french, crap on the city walls?

Or shall the architects quit design of hte facades, lay down gazobeton walls (cheap) with PVC windows beacuse some greedy landlords want to earn more?

Why did I study architecture for 5 years, including 4 years of architectural history and 2 years of free-hand drawing, painting and sculpture? If facades can be just billboard frames, then any building technician who yesterday has drawn up an obora in PGR can draw a city building today.

To me it's a symptom of total failure of aestethic education and absolute lack of respect for others (those who live or work in 24/7 dark flats or offices and those who have to look at this sh*t.

Sorry for my nerves,

Anonymous said...

This type of advertising (and in fact all types of big-format advertising) should be taxed at prohibitive rates. A good source of income for the state (local government), easy to collect and serves a good cause.

Anonymous said...

And, I forgot to add, taxing this stuff would also do good to the advertising industry. Ads in excess are less effective than they could be, and increasing their space only encourages arms-race...

Anonymous said...

Michael - the rights issue is an important one. I wonder what the tenant agreements and CCR's (Covenants, conditions and restrictions) - if any, say with respect to a tenant's rights to unfettered light/air etc.

Also are there local ordinances in existence governing this?


AndrzejK said...

There is an additional issue here. In many instances scaffolding is put up as a frame for the adverstising. This allows easy acces for thieves. Is there any evidence of increased break ins in these buildings.

However the ads do not cover up some hideous buildings as well as onme classics like Smyk. Were modern architects to produce more exciting facades then good, but until they do most of the glass and steel carbuncles could usefully also be covered up. But I am not all sure of the artistic value of the two metre high Photoshop enhanced private bits of David Beckham besporting in underwear courtesy of H&M.

Warsaw Urban Planning Department said...

Warsaw is such a goddamawful ugly town that any large and tasteful advertising hoardings which cover the greyness are a plus.

Better still, someone should think seriously about spraying the entire town in a cheerful colour, maybe dayglo green, from the air, or from orbit.

The utterly design-free advertising hoardings that line every major road in Poland are an entirely different matter. They make the Polish suburbs some of the most hideous places in Europe, and that includes such monstrosities as suburban Athens.

Paulina Wawrzyńczyk said...

Nightmare :(