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Torn-Down Tuesday: The 'visual pollution' on Buffalo's Main Street

This photo was taken standing at the corner of Niagara and Main streets. What was then Niagara between Main and Pearl Street is now covered by the Main Place Mall.

Last week’s Torn-Down Tuesday looked at SUNY Buffalo State art professor D.K. Winebrenner’s uppity takedown of fast food architecture.

This week, we look back at the time Winebrenner — who was also the Courier-Express art critic — talked about “visual pollution” hurting Buffalo’s image and postulated that the city’s too many billboards and signs were creating psychological illness in people.

“While no practical inquest can establish the causes for a diseased spirit with the same objectivity as physicians can pinpoint the reasons for a damaged lung (or a dead fish), what happens to us aesthetically can neutralize or even destroy our visual sensitivities,” wrote Winebrenner.

The story was accompanied by the two photos on this page, both showing signs and buildings that gave way for the Main Place Mall and tower.

“Any given sign may be harmless in itself, and may even be well designed, but the clutter and confusion of crowded, screaming advertisements, each seeking to be heard above all others — results in no one being heard effectively,” wrote Winebrenner, who was excited for future development without signs.

“As we greet the dawn of a new day in downtown Buffalo, let us take one last, quick look at the overhead jungle as it appeared in August 1964, being replaced by the new buildings in Main Place. May this long be remembered as the spot where a greater, more beautiful Buffalo was born.”

Winebrenner couldn’t have known that the new development was ushering in an era spanning several generations where 150 years of life and vitality were stripped from Main Street, signs and all.

 

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