Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quick Take: Move Along! Nothing Unusual Here!

I walk by this building in Midtown Atlanta nearly every day, on my way to and from work. The bank that once occupied the building has moved to a newer, larger, altogether shinier building about a block away.

(Incidentally, the new bank building is a one-story structure on a site once occupied by a multi-story office building. This seems counter to recent trends in Midtown toward greater density, but that's an issue for another time.)

Notice the windows of the vacant building. It has, in effect, been boarded up, but in a way that serves as a kind of camouflage - though only selectively.

I don't know how many times I walked by the building before I noticed but, one morning last week, I was about half a block from the building when it occurred to me there really shouldn't have been a window where the ATM used to be. Then, it seemed to me the windows had a matte, dead look to them.

I stopped for a moment to look. The windows were obviously fake, likely wood panels painted to look like windows. It took a moment to put that together with the padlocked wooden door that had been added just inside the glass front door to see through the ruse to the intentions of the building's owners.

The aim is for the building not to draw attention to itself or, more precisely, for the building to be secured without telegraphing to all and sundry passers-by that the building is in need of being secured. Had they simply boarded up the building, with bare plywood, or even with wood painted black, it would have all but screamed: VACANT BANK!

The camouflage really is selective though.

Standing next to the building, looking directly at it, the effect is utterly unconvincing. The trick is to give passers-by no cause to stop and look.

As I say, I may have walked by the building any number of times before I stopped but, given my walking pace and lack of other distractions, there was time for the oddness of the windows to catch my eye.

Most people who pass the site do so in cars, at speed, on a one-way street. To a driver absorbed in the flow of driving, or distracted by radio or by cell phone, nothing about the building would indicate that it is in any way unusual.

For that target population, the vacancy of the building is all but invisible.

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