It’s no secret there’s a lot of visual beauty to take in when galavanting around the streets of NYC–in fact, we’re home to two of the most beautiful streets in the world!
But along with living in a city as big as ours comes chaos in the form of visual pollution, and one neighborhood comes straight to mind when we think about this–Time Square.
In an area that’s so overwhelmingly filled with larger-than-life billboards and blinding lights–not to mention the overload of tourists–it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed.
In fact, studies have proved that visual pollution can have negative effects on our mental health–think: anxiety, fatigue, and depression–as our brains can fully process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.
And it’s not hard to ignore the mental strain that puts on us when we’re constantly being bombarded visually–plus you can’t deny how much these visuals get in the way of us experiencing the few instances of natural beauty the city has to offer.
So, HouseFresh, who helps people live in fresh homes, decided to give people a fresh, uncluttered look at Times Square by ridding the neighborhood of its visual pollution, and we can’t deny that the result is a bit mind-blowing!
Behold, Times Square with and without its iconic billboards:
Given its unique position in the American imagination, Times Square is at the heart of the debate over whether one person’s visual pollution is another’s natural modern habitat. In fact, some argue that the square’s previous form of visual pollution – grime, aging billboards, and lurid cinema signs – is a tragic loss, having formed a welcoming backdrop for the city’s outcasts. Meanwhile, the present Times Square continues to evoke the greed and waste of the 1980s, when the square’s ‘Disneyfication’ began. Is there a more sensitive way we could freshen up that visual field for the mid-21st-century?
However, ridding the city of its visual pollution would have impacts other than just giving our eyes a break.
HouseFresh notes that when the Brazilian mayor banned outdoor advertising, removing 15,000 billboards and 300,000 imposing store signs, views of urban decay which were once hidden were now visible to the eye. So, while forms of visual pollution can be seen as overwhelming on one hand, they also work to decorate the city and conceal unappealing areas on the other.
So, the question that begs to be answered is whether or not we’d be willing to trade in this visual pollution for a quieter, more low-key (but potentially less visually appealing) Times Square–and we’re not entirely sure where we stand on that.
I mean, we can’t exactly imagine Times Square (edited photo or not) any other way than how it is today–can you? Plus, we must admit it looks a bit less magical without all the billboards.
To take a look at how other cities would look sans visual pollution, such as Mong Kok District, Hong Kong, Delhi, India, and Shibuya Crossing, Japan, you can head to HouseFresh’s website.