When I take the bus here in London I always like to go to the top.
I always look for one of the seats in front, like many other people, because I like to look at the street and see the details of the city.
Looking at the city from above is nice because you have a new perspective, a view from 3.5 meters high.
When I pass by Oval for example, I always look at the small view of the interior of the Cricket stadium, which is not possible if you walk in the street.
The height gives us a new vision, a bit like Ugo La Pietra’s “Commutatore”, it gives us the possibility to change our point of view on things we already know and let us discover new elements that from our humble vision as pedestrians we cannot see.
That’s how I started to see the lines of the road differently.
Seeing them from above gives a much more complete view of how they make up the plot of the city, their route and their complexity.
The first graphic factor that caught my attention was the “Yellow Box”, that is the crossing of the yellow lines at busy road junctions.
Maybe they caught my attention because they are a unique element of London, or at least new to me to see.
So I started to give more importance to all those lines of various colors that are part of our street and that we follow when we walk, bike, car, bus, tube and any other vehicle.
A language made of colors and thicknesses, symbols of the bicycle, written for the fast lane and a thousand other small details.
What beautiful, silent, rigid, straight, colourful, resistant, functional. In short, I instantly fell a little in love with the pedestrian strips, the hatching, the imperfections of wear and tear and their material.
What’s their material, I wondered. How do they apply to asphalt? Can they be bought privately or do you need a permit? Because if not, I could change the rules of the road as I please. I could cause an accident or write what I want on the asphalt with a very strong paint.
If the barriers were my platonic love suddenly had been replaced by a new curiosity.
Looking for the properties of the material I found that it is a thermoplastic and can be applied in two ways.
1- with a special machine where you put this thermoplastic powder paint and heating it up to 300°C it melts and, passing through a nozzle, is applied on the asphalt moving the machine. This is the method used here in England by the government to make these graphics.
2- rolls of different widths of solid material with a smooth side are sold. The strip must be placed on the asphalt, cleaned as well as possible, and then melted with a propane torch, in this way the strip simply enters the impurities of the asphalt and sticks solidly.
Since I could not stay all the time on the bus to observe the lines of the road I thought of other ways to be able to observe them from above anyway. Going to a tall building? Climbing things to take pictures? No! Google Earth!!! When I thought about using Google Earth I naturally downloaded the app while I was on the bus and started to look at the intersections I was passing at the time, from the satellite.
Beautiful! Very happy about my little discovery. These are the feelings I look for when I make plans, the emotion dictated by curiosity and small different ways of seeing the world around us.
I had found not only a way to see the lines from above but also to see them all over the world! or almost… in fact I immediately began to see how this signage changed in different parts of the world and I discovered that not all nations and cities are visible in the same way.
Some of them are completely unavailable and they have a very bad resolution… as if someone had photographed them from the satellite with an old generation mobile phone.
So I started taking screenshots of street intersections, roundabouts and roads in different places to see how they differed.
Everyone has their own identity even in the road lines! Different signs, different colors, different thicknesses, everything different but a similar language anyway!
I thought it was a good idea to print these shots from the satellite and, with an acetate sheet on top, retrace the lines so that they could be separated from the image.
I started to fantasize about how to use these lines, about their graphic value alone. How can they be translated at home? Do we need them at home for some reason? Do we need them to get oriented? They also serve to protect, to delimit, to stop, to give the direction, to allow one action or another, to tell you where to walk and where you can’t walk, how to make a curve, to tell you that there’s a step there….
Since I had already been intrigued by the graphics in airports in the past, I went on a tour of different airports around the world.
Complicated and not very readable for me but still fascinating in their geometries.
I had fun retracing these lines to understand them better and to discover new ones in countries I have never visited. But how is it possible to readjust them?
I started playing with these out-of-the-ordinary shapes, positioning them differently, repeating them in series and so on.
To continue this experiment I decided to make some hatching stamps and “yellow boxes” that led me to new ideas that I will tell in another post! (suspense).
I thought that these catheter sheets could become illustrations, urban illustrations of the places we live every day but of which we can’t have a vision like this from the satellite, a vision that allows us to see the interweaving of these signs and better understand the graphics of where we live and, probably, also appreciate it more.