John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Beautifying burnt-out cars, wrecked storefronts and other urban blight with the power of colored paint.
The big problem with reclaiming alleyways is that, visually, they're often about as attractive as a corridor in a Turkish dungeon. Design aesthetics run about the same for most alleys: brick walls hairy with mildew or other mysterious bio-presences, rows of trashcans or stacks of garbage bags, a sliver of sky far above that lets in pale, dust-moted light.
But do they have to be so monotonous? Dutch artist Edwin Deen doesn't think so, and he's gone to his workshop to craft a fix for these blah thoroughfares. Deen's brainstorm is called the "Liquid Rainbow," and it can coat a dismal alley in a matter of seconds with a vibrant, happiness-spreading prism of paint.
The rainbow machine is actually a hacked lawn sprinkler juiced with a new electric controller. On exhibit right now at the Ampelhaus in Oranienbaum-Wörlitz, Germany, the device promises to give a come-hither makeover to abandoned car hulks, boarded-up store fronts, stained Dumpsters and other symptoms of urban blight. The operator just needs to make sure he's willing to assemble more Liquid Rainbows in a pinch, as getting caught spraying a block with one could require a quick escape from an irate policeman or property owner.
Here's a video of Deen's rainbowmaker in action: