(Image: McCulley Design)
This is a photograph of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s Las Vegas – an image of an architecture of communication. As the generative elements of communicative acts, sign and symbol attain architectural primacy in a landscape of big spaces and high speeds. Given this speed and scale, it is the bold impact of the Stardust sign-front and not the structure behind it that assigns order and conducts circulation. “If you take the signs away,” argue the writers, “there is no place.”
Like Vegas, Times Square is nothing if not sign. But Occupy Times Square on October 15th was a reversal of the bases of Learning from Las Vegas. Here, the operative scale is human, and the speed is minimal. The protestors are tightly penned in so that their relations regard each other rather than the built space around them. The same police pens mean that there is little movement, or no movement at all. In opposition to the frenetic pace of the automobile – whether in Vegas or Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles – Occupy is here to not move. The clearest symptom of the re-humanised speed and scale is the sea of analogue signs that has sprung up between the digital billboards high above. Their handwritten content is readable by eyes close by. These are signs for proximate bodies.