March 11, 2009
Susan Braun writes “Get rid of the fake windows” in Minneapolis’ Downtown Journal (via Planetizen). Her particular gripe is with chain stores that try to replicate their auto-oriented suburban models in the city. She calls out CVS Pharmacy in particular for its fake windows, which she deems worse than blank walls because they pretend to be something they’re not. I wrote about windows as walls in When does a window become a wall?, and Braun has an elegant way of articulating the urban preference for real windows.
CVS…is taking the anti-pedestrian environment to an extreme. A review of three of their urban locations…yields at least 10 different ways to block windows or in other ways destroy an interior-exterior connection and a sense of street vitality and safety. As you walk by these stores, here’s the view: The backside of display shelves, blank walls built into the windows, blinds pulled all the way down, film over the windows, walls built into the windows with generic advertising on them, a view into a poorly organized storeroom, a view into the chaos of the backside of sinks and counters in the photo area, a wall with a shelf of gift bags stuffed with tissue paper (how symbolic — empty gift bags), a wall with a shelf of teddy bears with their backs to the street, and the crowning jewel is a display of once lovely prints, now an eerie green as the red ink fades, of the lost Read the rest of this entry »
June 30, 2008
Blocking out the scenery*
…and the merchandise, and the other shoppers, and the ambiance of the store, etc., etc.
Window Signs Become Walls – Milwaukee Ave.
Read the rest of this entry »
June 11, 2008
Grace’s Furniture/Cheetah Gym building
The first building of prominence as you travel north on Milwaukee Avenue from Logan Square’s square (BTW, it’s not at all square, but oval in shape–and may be a topic for a future post!) is the former Grace’s Furniture building.
Some may know this as the location of the once future Cheetah Gym Logan Square location. The hope of what was once heralded by many as a welcome addition to the Milwaukee Avenue corridor seems to have all but vanished from the landscape. A recent check with the manager confirms that there are no current plans to open a Logan Square location of Cheetah Gym. [Update: Cheetah Gym is on again! (See One step backwards, two steps forward on Milwaukee Avenue.)]
The loyal opposition, on the other hand, who feared the impact of the Cheetah Gym (you know, more people on–and the revitalization of– the street) and loathed the introduction of a non-(hyper)local business Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2008
William Whyte’s City: Rediscovering the Center was one of the first urban planning related books I ever read and it first brought to my attention the problem of blank walls. (I understand that it’s now out of print, but that the ideas are contained in The Essential William H. Whyte, a collection of his seminal writings, including the better known, The Organization Man.) Whyte’s Street Life Project studied how people actually use and interact with city streets and public places, and was the genesis of the Project for Public Spaces.
Moving to Chicago from D.C., I saw the problem of blank walls in action in downtown Chicago (though there have been improvements over the years). When I first moved to Chicago I worked downtown in a towering post-modernist building of glass and granite. Two restaurants fronted the several story high lobby, but you couldn’t tell it from the outside. Similarly, as an unfamiliar newcomer, I couldn’t tell what was hidden inside myriad other towering office buildings. As you walked down the street, all you could see were large Read the rest of this entry »