Yesterday we featured several photos of buildings on Lancaster Avenue that had been plastered with stickers saying, "I Wish This Was [blank]" Many respondents wished the buildings would be places to buy drugs, and those that didn't mention drugs were just as unwholesome, requesting gun shops, strip clubs, adult video stores, and more.
There were also some constructive ideas, from a children's literacy center to a quality grocery store. But an overall look at the photos suggests Philadelphians weren't necessarily taking the project very seriously. Now we're told that the stickers at 39th have been removed.
A commenter suggested they were the work of Neighborland, which facilitates civic engagement via online organizing tools. This is not the case, as can be seen from the comments below. Neighborland is now known for its signs and stickers that say "I want [blank] in my neighborhood," and it just went national this month. Though it seems rather happy-happy joy-joy, not everyone is taken with Neighborland, as the commenter's words suggest, and that commenter mistook the stickers as the org's work.
A little background. The stickers started as a public art project by public spaces poster girl Candy Chang (recently a speaker at DesignPhiladelphia). The TED Senior Fellow and Tulane Urban Innovation Fellow is a phenomenally successful advocate for community engagement: She's worked on and inspired community-engagement art projects all over the world, and was recently named one of the Top 100 by Public Interest Design. After "I Wish This Was" took off as a public art venture, she co-founded Neighborland as a separate but sticker-inspired project in 2011. Though the company has investment from Twitter's Biz Stone, as of July 2012, there was no financial model going forward. From Next American City:
Charging cities for the service goes against the the project's altruistic mission. They toyed with the idea of selling site-selection information to businesses before realizing they were already giving it away for free. ... At present, the start-up is taking an approach similar to Twitter and YouTube: Worry about it later. Part of what makes the project expensive is the aim to have a physical presence in each community where the tool is available. Again, Next American City:
As far as Neighborland is concerned, an Internet discussion is a nice distraction but not the main product. The streets are where the real action is. The trouble is getting there. So who got here? Who put the stickers up on Saturday and who removed them so briskly? Could it be that Philadelphians' somewhat vulgar responses on the stickers weren't consistent with the optimistic ethos of Neighborland, thus prompting a Neighborland rep to remove them? Or is it more likely that a cynical Philly resident, mistrustful of Neighborland's motives, took the stickers down instead?
As you can see from the comments, the answer is far less sensational. Some Drexel architecture students ordered the stickers after seeing Urbanized and hearing Chang speak here in Philly. Because they were already working on a Lancaster Avenue project, that's where they placed them. They did not remove the stickers nor did anyone else they know.
2:50 p.m Dec. 20 2012: This post has been updated to incorporate the information left in the comments.
· I Wish This Was? Making Real What Happens On the Internet [Next American City]
· Untoward Ideas for Lower Lancaster Avenue [CPHI]