language in the landscape

One of the things I enjoy observing while walking a neighbourhood is the names of older apartment blocks. Some of the associations they bring up are unfortunate, like this one, which with its combination of name and spiked balcony design makes me think of Cromwell’s murderous rampage through Ireland and heads on stakes.

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Others are in cool lettering and are often poetic or literary. They draw from a different set of references  to the aspirational (‘prime’ , ‘icon’), literal (‘evoke’) or punning (‘divercity’) names given to contemporary developments. Mostly, these new names are all in lower or upper case, as if proper nouns are yesterday’s technology. They are spelt out in shiny, reflective signage which conforms to the charcoal palette that visually dominates Sydney’s built environment these days.

Some older ones can be quite literal, too, in their circumspection:

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And many are still aspirational:

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But many draw from the poetics of place and the material world, linguistically and in their design.

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Sometimes they are named after people, mostly women. Maybe an homage to a loved one of the original developer? Or the name that they imagined for the type of woman who might live there?

IMG_7542IMG_7320IMG_6484IMG_8202One of my favourite genres of building names is those that deploy a particular set of associated place-images to produce meaning and place that are quite remote from the design or the architecture.

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Below is my all-time favourite. It is poetic and deeply embedded in the material world at the same time.

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Author: Kirsten Seale

I am a Sydney based researcher and academic, and the author of numerous articles on cities, urban culture, and place. I am the co-editor of Informal Urban Street Markets (Routledge, 2014) and the author of the forthcoming Markets, Places, Cities (Routledge, 2016). This is my research blog.

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