Newark is the Detroit of the metropolitan area. Once proud, and still a viable urban area with remarkable building stock, Newark has an identity problem, but its new Mayor Corey Booker is smart, progressive and determined to revive the city.
One project his administration created was to ring the city with a series of gateways announcing your entrance into the city. Something along the lines of the Barriéres des Paris, the remarkable ring of gates that Ledoux designed in the 18th Century for Paris...except nothing like these monuments of the age of enlightenment at all! We are talking about Newark.
For the Newark Gateways we began to think that the audience should be much larger than just the ‘lucky’ individuals actually entering Newark: why not address the entire world at the same time as the local audience?
One way to mark Newark’s edges is on Google Earth. It is no accident that the assignment for the Newark Gateways was delivered as a Google Earth file: it is, more and more, the way we virtually “travel”. The Gateways, we thought, could address the remote and the local constituencies with a single set of ideas that could be legible in reality and in cyber-reality.
Our proposal is to paint a new set of gateway symbols right on the ground, in color and at a scale that they could be easily seen and identified from satellite photos. As these photos are updated Newark would be the first city to speak directly to the Google Earth audience.
On the ground the painting may be, at first, a bit hard to decipher, but the color and scale would separate them from the ordinary traffic lines. They would be painted, for example, on a bridge surface, and under the bridge as well. And maybe even on the ceiling of the bridge bottom. They would wrap around obstructions and be bright enough to cheer up any gray street intersection. They would be unmistakable thresholds of entry to the city.
To explain these marks to the earthbound visitor we propose lighted signs displaying the satellite images, and a subtle arrow pointing back down to the ground. The color would help viewers make the leap, but a little bit of mystery wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Designing the symbols we borrowed a bit from map notations, a bit from early alphabets, and a little bit from crop circles. They could be re-thought to be more connected to the history of the location, or to the current residents, or to other events, and we think there should be some local pride about the symbols; these are, after all, neighborhoods.
With paint, and little else, Newark can define itself in real space, and in cyber-space; it can celebrate its entry points, and talk to a global audience, all in one stroke.
This is, we hope, a way of both bringing Newark to the world, and bringing the world to Newark.