By Willa Granger, Civic House-University of Pennsylvania Intern
June 11, 2011. Issues of public space and outdoor advertising represent an international concern. This fact was made clear with a recent visit by representatives of the Gyeonggi Province (South Korea) to our office to talk about Scenic Philadelphia’s mission and its impact on shared space. Our guests included members of the Gyeonggi government’s New City Development Division, Land Development Planning Division, and several other departments as well as representatives of the advertising industry. The group, which discovered the Scenic Philadelphia through our website, was in the process of conducting a national tour of America, stopping in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. Their stop in Philadelphia was planned solely to visit our organization.
Mary Tracy, executive director of the Scenic Philadelphia, presented a PowerPoint about Scenic Philadelphia’s mission, history, and actions. The group was especially interested in Scenic Philadelphia’s advocacy for protecting public parkland, as well as learning about signage legislation in general. While the Gyeonggi contingent had previously met with members of America’s advertising industry, Tracy’s voice represented a powerful and resonant counterargument to advertising and its impact on public space. Its members were struck by a particular quote Tracy shared: “One generation plants the seeds, another gets the shade.” The sentiment was especially profound in light of the motivation behind this tour of American advertising practices: Gyeonggi leaders had come to America to garner ideas and opinions about the future development of their province. In particular, representatives were curious about the merits of LED signage in establishing the proper “look” of a modern region. As Tracy later commented, the journey was meant to encourage Gyeonggi leaders to be visionary; signage, especially LED signage-with its significant toll on environmental resources-is simply not innovative. We must remain sensitive to the “seed” we plant for future generations, and realize the environmental and visual burden we pass on through outdoor advertising.
We expect to hear from representatives of Gyeonggi about the future development and beautification of their province.