Informal Urbanism Indicator #1: Graffiti. Where Does The Urban Fabric Begin and End? Ask Super Strudel
If a visitor asks a random Carrboro resident where downtown is, they’ll be almost certain to get directions to where the railroad tracks cross Main Street right by The Station bar.
This is the undisputed center of Carrboro’s urban fabric, a.k.a. the place where the most people are walking around. But if this is the center of the action, where is the edge of the action? Where does it dissipate? When you are in downtown Carrboro or any other downtown, do you ever wonder how far the people you see walking walked to get there?
As someone who does a lot of walking around town, I’ve started thinking about all the little and big modifications that happen to an urban streetscape because one person or institution tries to capitalize on the presence of a significant number of walkers to sell a product, promote a show, or share an idea. For lack of a better term, I will call these modifications “Informal Urbanism Indicators.” Another way to think of them might be as “Hints from Residents.” In this case, the “hint” is data about where people walk.
For the remainder of the post, I’d like to introduce you to our urban graffiti guide, Super Strudel. To be fair to the artist who created him, I must acknowledge that perhaps the “SS” stands for something else, and that it is possible that “Super Strudel” was added by another person walking by with a sharpie. I had seen Super Strudel in a few places and started taking pictures before I finally got his name down from this display by Fitch Lumber.
Whatever type of rodent he is, this guy gets out on the town pretty regularly. He showed up over on the dumpster at Carrburritos:
Over by the White Oak Condominiums on Fidelity Street:
On the edge of the UNC Campus across from the Carolina Inn:
While this final shot on the back of Kinetix does not convey the size well, this one was also 4 or 5 feet tall, I think:
The interesting thing about these photos as a group is that if we map them, we get a visual that depicts (probably in part) the mental map of one person of what constitutes the walkable urban fabric of downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Click on the minus button in the map to zoom out one level, and you’ll see all 6 photo locations above mapped.
View Super Strudel Art Locations in a larger map
But this is just one map of one person’s urban fabric, using one variable. If we layer together data created by MULTIPLE people, that represent jointly made decisions or separately made decisions that reinforce each other, we get more “Hints From Residents.” As the title of the post suggests, I’m going to do several of these posts on Informal Urban Indicators. The post on Indicator #2 shows up tomorrow- feel free to guess what’s coming in the comments. Meanwhile, let me know if I missed any Super Strudel locations! I wouldn’t be surprised if I did.