In a recent Atlantic Cities article, Richard Florida wrote about the ubiquity of corporate logos in the modern city, most notably New York. He commented on the difficulty in finding “authentic” and gritty urban spaces, free of buzzing neon logos looming in the background. But the branding goes beyond individual stores and corporations. Products emerging out of specific neighborhoods carry a certain branding identity. The ambiances produced by the branding of New York neighborhoods influences consumptive behavior. One must buy jeans in SoHo and vintage flannels in Williamsburg. As these norms become more deeply engrained into our culture, they become less authentic, and something new emerges to take its place.
So why is it that authenticity is tied to a lack of corporate sponsorship? Logos cloud the modern cityscape with constant reminders of the consumeristic and globalized behavior the city demands of its inhabitants. Authenticity therefore must represent the agency to exist and enjoy an urban space without paying money or participating in commoditizing mediums like social networking apps. This is why parks are such an undeniably essential component of city life. It goes beyond the need to access nature and provide nice views for the city. Parks provide everyone with the ability to recreate without spending a dime.
It is important to extend this concept of free recreation outside of the parks and into urban social spaces. Urban planners and architects should incorporate the possibility to spend time in their spaces without necessarily spending money in their plans. Free space needs to be institutionalized, so protestors won’t get kicked out of Zuccotti Park, the homeless won’t constantly feel threatened, and I won’t have to spend $100 to have fun in New York on a weekend night.
Here is Florida’s article from The Atlantic: