When Street Art Is More Than Street Art

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Some clever artist has plastered a series of stylized yellow protractors (or are they bridges?) around Pittsburgh, each with a (presumably) sequential number from one up into the hundreds. Apparently it's the talk of the town--so much so that, in a move truly worthy of the adjective "Keystone," the city's cops are trying to track the mastermind down so that they can charge him with a felony for property damage. In an awesome act of digital defiance, a blogger who was writing about and mapping the bridges has deleted the posts, refusing to allow his blog to be used by the authorities to bring down this gem of a project.

Moving past this dramatic and still-unfolding plot to the project itself: the simplicity of this project is a total joy. Talk about augmented reality these days focuses on digital applications, and it's so easy to forget that there are some very low-tech ways of re-framing the way that people experience the urban environment. In this project, the instigator has used some simple plastic decals and super glue to turn the entire city of Pittsburgh--already pretty fun to wander around thanks to its undulating topography and erratic street grid--into a game platform. As you chase around looking for all of the protractors, you wind up exploring the city, leaving no nook or cranny un-scanned in your quest for detection dominance.

This Pittsburgh project highlights the fact that you don't need mad app-development skillz to augment your city. While tech allows us the opportunity to tweak the urban experience in new wasy, a bit of ingenuity and some art supplies are all you need to re-engage people with the cityscape. On that note--if anyone else knows of some similarly clever interventions in other cities, please share!

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