ikea glass and antiseptic urbanity
NYC is about to start installing new newsstands around the city like this one. Now, right from the start, there’s a lot about the situation that I really don’t love. From what I can tell, these stands are the fruits of a public-private partnership (hate those) where the city gets them for “free” in exchange for the corporation in exchange for the company that installs them being allowed to collect ad revenues for the huge ad frames on the back of the box (not pictured here, obviously)… So thumbs-down on that score.
But putting that issue to the side (which doesn’t make any sense, I know, but just play along), figuring out what I make of these new stands aesthetically leaves me tangled in knots. On the one hand, I like the clean cool looks of the things a lot better than the old ones. I don’t even hate the Ikea glass, its color (even if it is sure to become dated very swiftly…) Taking care of your street furniture, having swift looking bus stops and newsstands and even public toilets, to my mind, is like a continual living advertisement for publicness, for public, common space itself. Which, in this nation, even in New York, is constantly in dire need of a good marketing campaign. On the other hand, isn’t it the small-scale humanity, the human mess, of the newsstand, as an institution, that makes it such a special place? The overstocked profusion of cheap goods and reading materials (from what I recall from a conversation with a newsstand guy at a subway station near my old place, one of those guildish NYC laws mandates that the newsstands can sell nothing that costs more than a certain price – $10? What was I trying to buy from him that yielded me this information?), the compact bazaar feel of the things – I’m sure that we will miss it, on some level, when it disappears…
The comment thread on the article behind the first link above contains some interesting amateur discussion about the aesthetics of urban life.
And this post is meant to be a forerunner to a long-plan post forthcoming entitled (probably) Ikea Socialism.