Monday, April 11, 2016

April Fools’ Day – Part 3

Bottomed-Out Bud Light Truck in San Francisco
(photo from Kurt Varner via Twitter)
Continuing on the heels of Parts 1 and 2, this is Part 3 of my annual April Fools’ Day summing up of stories that tickled me most over the last twelve months.  Previously, I’ve counted down from #24 to #13.  Today, I’ll continue with #12 to #7.

#12 Reverse Graffiti – Admittedly, this particular story has no urban connection, but the technique could have wide application in urban areas.  Very wide application.

Tasked with scrubbing the grime from the face of a concrete gravity dam, Polish energy company Polska Grupa Energetyczna asked a comic book artist to design a mural commemorating the vegetation and wildlife native to the woodlands near the dam.  Workers then selectively removed the grime to “paint” the mural.

Of course, this leaves a question.  If the dam wasn’t harmed by leaving much of the grime in place, was it necessary to remove any of it?  Or has Poland fallen into the same “job creation” trap as the U.S.?

#11 Cool Buses North of the Border –Following the lead of a Danish transit company that has tried to make buses cool, the transit department of the City of Edmonton offers their own cool bus video.  I give the edge to the Danes, but love that there’s competition.

#10 The Los Angeles Mayor Tries to Groove – Concerned about the possibility of traffic jams during a scheduled demolition project, Mayor Eric Garcetti contacted the Theodore Roosevelt High School Jazz Band.  He wanted them to back him up on a public safety announcement slow jam.

It’s not great music.  It’s not even good music.  But the Mayor and his staff get full credit for thinking outside the box.  And the jazz band might have had their civic awareness raised.

#9 Musical Swings – I’ve been to Montreal twice.  And hope to get there again.  Perhaps it’s the French influence, but Montreal feels different than most places in the U.S. and Canada.  A row of musical swings in a public plaza is one more example.

Programmed to emit single musical notes when a single swing is in use and to play increasingly complex chords as more and more swings synchronize up, the swings add a cooperative element to a public place.

#8 People Chat with Trees – Trying to give the public a better away to notify officials of concerns with trees in public places, the City of Melbourne, Australia gave email addresses to individual trees.  What they often got weren’t reports of rotten branches or damaged roots, but heartfelt communications between citizens and trees, sometimes chatty and sometimes more profound, touching on the circle of life.

I’m glad the folks found someone to talk with, but designers of public places might take this as a challenge to build spaces where people are emboldened to talk with each other rather than the vegetation.

#7 A Microbrew Truck Wouldn’t Have Done This – Cities have their own unique ingredients and flavors.  So the official beer of a city should be a microbrew that reflects the local culture.  Thus, it was painful to watch as the NFL, as part of bringing Super Bowl L to San Francisco and Santa Clara, also brought along sponsorships for national beer brands.

But the streets of San Francisco took revenge, high-centering a Bud Light truck on its way to a downtown Super Bowl gathering place.  (The photo was posted to Twitter by Kurt Varner.)  Hopefully whatever beer void was created by the truck mishap was filled by beverages from 21st Amendment or Speakeasy.

When I next write, my top six April Fools’ Day stories of the past year will be revealed.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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