Has the electronic billboard crisis overshadowed the exploding “Billboard Architecture” style of Los Angeles? The two may be linked.
Have you noticed how many new buildings in Los Angeles are incorporating billboards, supergraphics and other advertising schemes into their architecture? At first this may have seemed like a novel idea, finding ways to recess and indent into the façade of a modern high-rises to accommodate those advertising dollars, while at the same time eliminating those unsightly erector set structures that support the aforementioned billboard and digital signs.
But with the near-recent demise of the electronic billboard in Los Angeles that have been “turned-off” since April 15, 2013 and may never become eyeball real estate *again, the proliferation of buildings that incorporate billboards into their design plans is increasing in an alarming rate. I am not talking just the medium size two level strip mall variety but large corporate glass and steel types that stand on their own merits, stylistically, functionally and with the corporate clients approval, who may know a few things about good design.
The problem with billboards and the ensuing sign pollution is that it is not going away by just shutting down one source of eyesore (even though it has been called a safety and annoyance issue). Obviously loads of capital is to be made incorporating advertising dollars into any local cityscape. Los Angeles is one of the most congested and mobile centric cities in the USA, therefore L.A. needs to make money while we sit idle in our cars or (god forbid) wait at a bus or train stop. What better way to capture and seduce an audience than by building into the very structures that support our sense of civic pride? Ad-u-tecture subliminally exchanges our sense of place for our sense of placement. Always being regarded as a potential consumer rather than simply a citizen who appreciate interesting building design.
As the battle continues over electronic billboards I think some consideration should be made over the next generation of building construction in Los Angeles. Let us encourage the clients, city counsels and the architects to strive for important, unique structures benefitting and representing the people of this great city rather than eliminating one annoyance and embracing another.
*A proviso is being considered that some of the dormant electronic billboards may be earmarked for conventional billboard use.