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2005 12 16
Sub-shopping Part 2 - Merry Christmas, Mr. van der Rohe
Recently, the TD Centre has allowed retailers to break the Miesian rigor of white Helvetica lettering on a dark background and use their own corporate signs. While some have argued against this is a garish corruption of a Modernist classic, I can't help but think "Why did it take so long?" It's not complicated. I'm a big fan of Helvetica and conformity to a consistent aesthetic. Consistency is my mantra - my constant nagging mantra, but as a guy just trying to find that place with the excellent brownies, I need those retail signs as my guide. Without them, I'd be completely lost. In the uniform Helvetica signage program formerly in place, any visitor was easily lost in a Modernist box. A market is not about uniformity or homogeneity. That sign treatment created an environment without landmarks or a sense of direction. It was like being thrown into a giant windowless maze where every point on the horizon looked exactly like another. When designing an interface, we have to show the user, something has changed. Websites employ "bread crumbs" and changing tabs to aid in navigation. Those are just virtual spaces. Shouldn't the same hold for real spaces? While the Travertine marble encloses and frames the TD concourse with a reserved dignity, the bright (and sometimes tacky) signage provides the landmarks that the human mind needs to map our environs. This is one mistake that the market place corrected. If you disagree, then you obviously never had to find the MTO kiosk in the TD Centre, which has since been relocated (I mean c'mon, I just found the friggin' thing and they move it!). Having said that, I admit, the cheery Christmas garlands and vinyl wall murals are over the top. Welcome to the Mall of Mies. Despite the decorations being relatively tasteful it does bring to mind the Eaton Centre management's decision to decorate Michael Snow's Canada Geese and the artist's outcry and threat of legal action. One wonders "What would Mies do?"

There is another part of the PATH I sometimes go out of my way to walk through. A section relatively untouched by commercialism which can hopefully stay that way. It is a connecting hallway to Metro Hall that is part of Roy Thomson Hall. It's comparatively short, but has a glass wall facing the Hall's fountain where you can often see ducks diving and bobbing around. The opposite wall is illuminated frosted glass. Though some of the glass panels are taken up by posters, the majority are gloriously blank (probably to the chagrin of the Hall's management). Even on a gray day that walkway seems bright and calming. The experience would be ruined if they ever sold advertising along the wall's entire length.
[email this story] Posted by P. Rogers on 12/16 at 10:36 PM

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