Bread and circuses

Piccadilly Lights is a splashy site run by Land Securities, promoting the neon and LED advertisements at Piccadilly Circus. Thanks to the end of Sanyo’s 33-year ownership of one of the prime spots on this atypically gaudy piece of London streetscape, a new advertiser has proudly stepped up to the plate (Korean car-maker Hyundai). Just over a century ago there were actual architectural facades here, all of which are presumably buried beneath many layers of electronic gubbins, cables and frameworks.


The visual landscape of a place like Piccadilly Circus must have once felt like a harbringer of the future media city, a dystopian, info-saturated world where constant, overbearing exhortations to buy and to serve were an integral part of everyday life. Piccadilly, Times Square, Akihabara, the Los Angeles of 2018, all offered up a blueprint for how the traditional facade would eventually evaporate in favour of a constantly shifting landscape of information. Ironically, the tendency now is for these splashes of neon to be self-contained and isolated. Instead, it was the largely forgotten streetscape of the Victorian era that was most densely soaked billboard advertising, a visual blight that seeped out into the countryside as well as cities.


See also the Piccadilly Circus Pool on flickr, from where the above image – London in the mid-60s by shipscompass – is taken (many more fascinating sets on that photostream). A contemporaneous day view can be seen here.

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One Response to Bread and circuses

  1. Theo says:

    I have honestly never thought about the buildings under the signs! Wonder what they look like. Il leave this here

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