I have always, always loved snow, having spent most of my childhood knee-deep in it. So this recent post on Design Observer about snow, cities, and white space deeply resonated with me.
The author talks about snow as the ultimate white space in the urban environment and how man is always trying to obliterate it, shovel it, plow it, salt it, melt it, make it go away, instead of appreciating its beauty:
It is contradictory: we react to the serene landscapes of new-fallen snow with loud and mechanized aggression.
No wonder that we have responded with so little creativity to the poetic presence of snow.
Poetic presence indeed. Having spent a lot of time lately thinking about how modernist philosophies have affected and shaped our urban spaces – mostly for the worst, it seems – in addition to my love for all things that employ effective use of white space, snow as the penultimate urban quietude intriques me.
And makes me think that perhaps, it's the only real white space, as a metaphor for modernism, that works in an urban setting. How that modernism as a design philosophy works much better for some design disciplines than for others. Have you ever considered what a city would look like if it were represented in two-dimensional form, as publication design, perhaps? A multitude of colors and typefaces, broken grids and probably lots of layered text and smudges and ink blobs torn edges and missing pages.
It would be an incomprehensible mess, most likely, interesting to look at, but not very usable, balanced or hierarchical. In many senses, the same modern design elements that work incredibly well in two-dimensions don't translate well to three.
Which is what makes snow and the urban space so compelling, I think. It forces white space. One that temporally renders the city almost two-dimensional, a clean canvas that for a short time, introduces a modernist element without compromising the humanistic visual chaos that makes cities so livable. So wonderful.