A couple of Sundays ago I went to Disneyland with a group of friends. I was captivated by Walt Disney’s fantasy world, fully transported by the perfectly themed landscapes designed to dazzle and mesmerize visitors.
After the fireworks show, my friends and I hopped onto the 5 freeway to head back home. It was while I was staring out the car window on the drive back I noticed all of the billboard advertisements dotted alongside the freeway. Their presence suddenly snapped me back to reality. I felt strange, suddenly noticing how obtrusive and prominent billboards are along the Los Angeles skyline.
Although I grew up in Los Angeles and billboards have been an everyday sight, I never stopped to think about how their presence affects the urban landscape. Billboards were always perceived as informational advertisements, telling me about upcoming movies and the season premiere of shows like Game of Thrones. Other times billboards were for public service announcements, like the memorable “Smoking Deaths This Year, and Counting” campaign.
After this sudden realization, I’ve been looking at billboards in a different way, wondering whether these massive structures can be transformed into something more informative, thought provoking, or just simply more fun.
Luckily, there are some amazing organizations out there that have already implemented or conceptualized creative ideas for integrating art and fun into billboard advertisements. Maybe one day all billboards will become an adaptive reuse project promoting the culture and ideas of Los Angeles instead of visually disruptive ad campaigns simply selling us things.
Los Angeles Nomadic Division – The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project is a Kickstarter campaign, a series of 100 billboards designed by 10 artists creating “chapters” all along I-10, each a unique interpretive link to the exhibition’s theme.
Urban Air – Stephen Glassman and team have started a campaign to transform billboard structures into an elevated urban forest.
Another interesting idea is Project Gregory, which transforms roadside billboards into homes for the homeless, funded by the advertisement rental revenues.
What are some of your ideas to transform these structures?