Ugly, functional things exist in great numbers throughout cities – and I’m not just talking about rush hour commuters on London’s Underground. Modern life is full of bits of infrastructure squatting on corners, lurking overhead and hidden down cul-de-sacs. If not exactly blighting the landscape, these bits of metal and concrete are rarely things of great beauty.
Cities couldn’t function without them of course: things like electricity substations are vital to the smooth running of daily life. Which may be one of the reasons why we, the inhabitants, stop actively seeing them. Their very ordinariness fading them into the background of the cityscape and the human psyche. We accept that modern life with all its wondrous advantages, comes with a few drawbacks – traffic wardens, call centres and city infrastructure. After all who could love the box in the photo below?
Across the world these grey lumps inhabit city streets providing essential services unremarked and unloved by people as they walk or drive past. Not so in The Hague. In The Hague they are the canvass for a large-scale art project which brings some joy and humour onto the streets.
It may seem a small thing amongst the many issues facing urban areas, but you can change the way a street ‘feels’ (and probably how people behave) with a little creativity and a paint brush. I’ve always suspected this to be true, but my experience in The Hague has convinced me that public art – in the widest sense – can make a difference.
City authorities in The Hague have approached the dilemma of the urban landscape by issuing would-be graffiti artists with officially sanctioned paint and brushes. The results speak for themselves – although these electric artworks only appear in some areas of the city, other areas continue to endure grey concrete boxes.