Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Sri Lankan Urbanscape and the Billboard


Reading cernos blog entry on road side advertisements made me want to write one of my own.


If I recall correctly it was at the Architect 2008 annual sessions that this topic got heatedly debated. Many distinguished Architects raised their voices on the use of bill boards/road side hoarding and other distracting advertisement boards proliferating the roadsides not only in and around Colombo but also in outstation areas where we are entertained by the occasional soap drama billboard.


Got this from cerno's blog




The majority were arguing how these hording disrupt the urban scape of Colombo, and I was thinking to my self what urbanscape????????????...I mean to preserve something, that THING should exist. apart from the cluttered haphazard petti kada (Box Shops), and the aluminum clad glass wraped monoliths that rise amidst raging sun and the rising dust, I havent seen much of a urbanscape in colombo. The street vendors of pettah who shout at you when your in a hurry and accidently knocks off one of their things from the make shift shelves on the concrete paving, or the king coconut carts invisible to those inside their air conditioned vehicles are the only signs of life I've vitnessed here. And since I’ve lived/schooled/sleeped/rathiyadued (the past tense of rasthiyadu?) in Colombo for the better part of my life I believe that I am qualified as the next guy to express my views in this regard.

Call me crazy but I find these billboards rather entertaining. I don’t mind glancing upon a billboard advertising some two bit overrated soap on sirasa, driving along galle road or to catch a glimpse of the latest dialog GSM hoarding or even the half way driven car through a billboard! I believe that dynamism is what makes a true urbanscape. And these billboards are some what keeping the streets alive, giving a break to people passing who are tormented by dust, heat and noisy motorists.



I don’t know many countries which have the caliber of street side posters in Sri Lanka. Ranging from politico profiles to the latest Ranjan Ramanayaka film, these posters fill up the otherwise vacant street side walls. I agree that it might not sound that great to the owner of the wall, but nonetheless I do love to read what they say.



There has also been some heated debate on the standards adopted by movie cut outs. Although I love the colorful and sometimes explicit hoardings, I do have to agree with the fact that these hoardings should be child-friendly.


I relish the though of some form of street/urban art being introduced to Sri Lanka. At the University of Moratuwa the idea seems to be germinating, as some of the walls have been spray painted by the students in to murals of artwork. What was once a monotonous dumb wall now speaks of ideas. In another perspective the walls which once screamed out protesting everything under the sun now has poetically mellowed down.

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