Tag Archives: Big Communications

Delivering the message (2)

At long last

At today’s Design Review Committee meeting, unanimous approval was given to a new branding concept for the “micro-neighborhood” of Second Avenue North between 25th Street and Richard Arrington Blvd (logo above, designed by Shannon Harris of Big Communications). After writing in this blog about the lack of good neighborhood branding in this City last year, your author teamed up with a group of local 2nd Avenue merchants, residents, and supporters to put together a plan for branding this burgeoning urban place. After much work, and neighborhood presentations to garner support, we now have a plan. And it’s exciting for several reasons.

Now I know where I am

First, good branding will reinforce this place’s identity for residents, merchants, and visitors. Easy-to-spot banner signage (above) coupled with a website (coming soon!), brochures, and other items will make 2nd Avenue simpler to find, navigate–and market to prospective new users. Awareness is raised, and visibility heightened.

That most urban of street furnishings

Second, it introduces fresh design to the public realm. Certain items in the public right-of-way (like benches in the lovely 2nd Avenue “butternut” hue, above) help cohere the street and extend the brand. Final locations will be determined–there will be enough for consistency, but not so much to overwhelm the eclectic, natural power of the street.

We need ’em

Third, we love bikes. Bike racks (above) identify the street (and by extension the greater neighborhood) as bike-friendly. Currently in front of Urban Standard alone, the one bike rack is often double-loaded, with others tied to whatever other pole may be available. Our bikes deserve more respect.

Most importantly, we hope this small 4-block effort will serve as a catalyst for a comprehensive branding program endorsed by the City. Nothing would be better than for 2nd Avenue to link logically with other branded neighborhoods. It’s high time we all agree that the current legal neighborhood structure–while important politically–is very different from the reality of how urban places emerge and develop (and often cross over legal boundaries). Most every other city has realized this distinction between political geography and the more complex fabric of urban places.

This is currently a total volunteer effort (graciously assisted by Operation New Birmingham). The next step is to raise funds (through donations, grants, and other sources) to determine the total scope of Phase One. More information will be coming soon. Until then, get ready 2nd Avenue: you’ve only seen the beginning.


Design time

Good graphics shape public perception

First, great news from City Hall: the same City team that has been rolling out the visually impressive Civil Rights Heritage Trail markers above (designer: Ford Wiles of Big Communications) is working on a complete wayfinding project for the City. As we’ve stressed in numerous posts, it’s long past time for a city our size to have a comprehensive plan for visual navigation through the urban environment. If the Civil Rights markers are any indication, we can expect high quality, thoughtful graphics and other environmental cues that will make our City more user-friendly for resident and tourist alike. We’re excited about this news, and look forward to a roll-out in 2012. We’ll report more when we have more details.

Second, not so great news from the  Design Review Committee: the Webb Building, whose initial renovation proposal we praised here, before the owner switched course and did something completely different which we lamented here. Before the holidays, the owner engaged a new architect, Herrington Architects, to present a “compromise” solution, which the DRC approved (below).

Disappointingly off-base

The above rendering shows the unevenly scored stucco (which had angered the Committee previously, and which was such a departure from the originally approved sleek metal banding) now being presented with contrasting paint colors, creating a “panel” effect. It is surprising that this blank/solid feel of this stucco portion, which continues to make the building top-heavy, was approved. There is an unfortunate parallel with these new panels and the ubiquitous applied panel schemes of the 1960’s, which were used to cover up historic facades across this downtown and others. Most likely, the new architect was given very little leeway to be creative, perhaps even constrained by the owner. The Committee itself does not have the power to force someone to return to the previously approved design; in this case, I sure wish they did.


Finally, a new business is planned for downtown as part of a renovation of an historic building. Look for details in the next few days in the Birmingham News. The pic above is a small teaser, hopefully whetting your appetite for more info.

[thanks to vizual2 for the Civil Rights Trail pic,  Herrington Architects for the Webb Building rendering, and wendy_tsang for the yogurt pic]