for Mayor Steve Benjamin’s State of the City address, 30 Jan 2018
“Cities have awakened….”
Harlan Kelsey and Irvin Guild, The Improvement of Columbia, South Carolina (1905)
It took nine months of work.
Painting the wall, he carved out a tunnel, hung the sun in front of us.
Nine white overhead lights lead us through the tunnel to the other side.
We did not deem it desirable, at this time, said Kelsey & Guild in 1905, to place too much emphasis upon detail, because, in doing so, the main objects sought might easily be lost sight of.
The details of the mural trick the eye, the real stone merging with the fake, the real metal barriers beside the painted traffic signs.
The things that seem to block the way are the things that make you see.
The real windows on the wall look fake, become part of the painting: the vision of what’s beyond is the point.
Cities have awakened, wrote Kelsey and Guild, to the urgent need for a systematic plan for [the] future.
In 1976, People magazine called the image “a brilliant orange sunset.” The State newspaper later called it “a descending sun.”
A comprehensive plan for development, said Kelsey & Guild, should consider well the tendencies of growth, and the physical features that … govern such growth.
Two white arrows show both lanes going forward, no one is headed back.
It is not clear, really, if the sun is rising or setting.
My first few weeks in Columbia, a friend drove me over to see it, early evening, the moment the tunnel seems most real, as if you could drive into it.
The sun is the same size as a yellow traffic sign that warns of a right turn ahead, the road curving away and out of sight. Forty years ago, he warned us of a hard swerve to the right, something we couldn’t yet see.
It is quite possible, Kelsey & Guild admitted, that this report will be more useful in its suggestions that in the plan outlined.
Blue Sky told People magazine, I wanted to reach through that wall, touch something larger than life.
Rumor is a kid once drove right into the mural.
The South Carolina Encyclopedia reminds us that Kelsey and Guild’s proposals were too ambitious to receive serious consideration, but they set a precedent for comprehensive planning.
The things that block the way must be
the things that help you see.
The wall was a way out.
The windows are dark,
the sun is shining in front of us.