Archive for the Street Blade Gallery Category

[#AddressNerd] Fractional Blocks In The Portland Street Blade 2.0 Design

Posted in PDX Street Blades, Portland Street Blades, Street Blade Gallery on June 6, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
While cities try to be planned in even chunks, life isn’t perfect. The ideal is digital; the reality, analog. Streets oft-times happen where they happen.

A good example of this is the grid layout of Salt Lake City, where the address block is a standard thing and the street can concievably land anywhere in that block. For example, a two standard streets, one the 35th and the next the 36th, would be named 3500 South and 3600 South. A street about 1/3 of the way between 3500 South and 3600 South might be named 3530 South. One eight-tenths of the way could be named 3580 South.

On this plan addresses are childs’ play to augur in on. As you travel north or south on any street that would cross these, you just glance right or left to see how the addresses are running. A bit dry, perhaps; an address like 455 West 3530 South is mathematically exciting but literarily dull. But Portland’s signage acts just like this. Check this blade fro SW Broadway near PSU that I snapped some time ago. The tab reads 700. SW Broadway is the 7th block west of the river in Downtown. The blade is telling you not that the block down the SW Broadway face is 700, but that you are either entering or leaving the 700 block of whatever cross street you’re on. As in SLC, the crossing-street system assumes you don’t need to be reminded what street you’re on, but you do want to know how far up or down the street you’re on without having to crane your neck left or right and hope to see the number as you go past.

If SW Broadway were a street in SLC, it would be South 700 West. 

I frame the concept thusly because it sets the stage for this next picture; the intersection of NE Pacific Street and NE Holladay Court.

The intersection of these two streets do not happen on an even address block point, and the new way of street-blading Portland attempts to address this. As someone who loves precision in such things, I’m kind of over the moon here. A bit of commentary perforce: in raw terms, the intersection of NE Pacific Street and NE Holladay Court is of two streets that are defined as east-west runners. They therefore have very similar blockface numbers. However! One has to remember that when you look at that block index, you’re not looking at the the address on the street that is named but the address on the street you’re already on that’s defined by the point of the crossing street. Thus, NE Pacific Street cuts across NE Holladay Court at approximately 13050 NE Holladay Court; NE Holladay Court intersects NE Pacific Street at the address of 13020 NE Pacific Street.

If that weren’t bewildering enough, this blade set might make you cross your eyes:

This is a few hundred feet back, where Holladay Street bends to become Holladay Court. Not exactly an intersection as one might think about it, until one thinks about it: it’s an intersection, just one where a street name changes. Each block index reads 13000; this intersection is where the 13000 block begins and ends on either street.

It’s a little challenging to get used to if you’re a new Portlander; the only other Willamette Valley city I know that does it this way is McMinnville. Eventually, it’ll click, and once it does, it’ll seem like the most organic and natural thing … as long as you start with the idea that you already know what street you’re on, and this tells you what’s coming and going as you travel.

And the font? That’s Clearview, baby. Looks good to me!


[Address Nerd] Street Blades? They’re Always Clear In Philadelphia

Posted in Sign Design, Street Blade Gallery, typography on October 5, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

I haven’t had a good story about a street blade to tell in a while, but while digesting the information delivered to me in the last missive, I’ve stumbled on a really cool blade design, and couldn’t wait to share it.

I’m surprised I haven’t heard about the design of the blades in Philadelphia before. They’re quite nifty. One of the classics of big-city American street blade style, I’ve found in my informal, note-free surveys, is the address index going on a little tab along the top of the blade. That way, the full street name – the specific (actual street name), generic (st/ave/ct/whatever), and directional (N, S, SW, etc) are the star. The address block is important, but most often, you’re probably just interested in what street you happen to be on at the moment.

Most towns, in order to simplify street blade construction have, over time, incorporated the block index into the main blade, resulting in a design that uses a standard, simple rectangular blade shape, whose benefits in creation and production ought to be self-evident. But the classic tab on the top goes away.

Philadelphia’s design actually creates the blade outline with the tab, effectively, built-in … and including a lot of pedestrian-and-motorist location information either directly or indirectly. Here’s one for the end of the 2100 block of West Kater Street, in Philly:

Intersection of Kater and 21st in Philadelphia
CC2.0 BY-SA licensed by creator Edu-Tourist

The sign is clear and beautiful, and is particularly notable for for including the directional not as a part of the street name (on the sign, at least) and as a data point in the block number display, which also gives you a clear idea of which way it is to the baseline – important in cities like Philadelphia, where the central business district is usually also the location of the local address grid origin.

Knowing this sign and getting a look at the sign on the other corner of 21st, you’d know at a glace how far away from the downtown core you are, and even be able to infer which way north actually is (remembering to account for the tilt of the local street grid).

The incorporation of the tab into the design of the sign makes for a non-standard shape, but presumably, Philly has gotten this obstacle circumvented. Notable as well is the practice of spelling the generic (STREET, in this case) out rather than abbreviating it, but removing the block number and directional from the main part of the sign makes this possible. Presumably if the specific were a particularly long word, that’d call for an abbreviation.

About the only drawback is that any geegaw personalizing the blade for the the district would have to go below, as in this photo: (referenced in this discussion board thread at, which is a little bit of a break from tradition – it’s also customary to put such identifying plaques in the pride-of-place spot, along the top, as we do here in PDX.

But withal, it’s a grand design, and we deem it nifty.

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[pdx] New Street Blades – SE 122nd and Pardee

Posted in PDX Street Blades, Street Blade Gallery on April 4, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Okay, false alarm there. It looked like Flock would post. Fooled me again.

To show the world I’m not completely hung up here, here’s two pictures from a recent photo safari. The new Type 3 blades, at SE 122nd Avenue and Pardee Street – one block south of the light at Holgate.

The 122nd there on this blade looks a little stretched out in the altitudinal direction.

Very readable, very pleasant on the eye. Once again and not for the last time, kudos to the designer of these blades. Very nice looking.

[pdx] SE 92nd And Division – New Blades, Cool Building

Posted in design, photography, Portland Photos, Street Blade Gallery, typography on March 28, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

The new PDX street blades are now gracing both the NW and NE corners of SE 92nd Avenue and Division Street.

I have rhapsodized enough about these new designs that I needed do that any more. My devoted reader should be well familiar by now with my feelings about their Clearview goodness, and mixed-case on a street blade just makes me happy and antic inside. It’s the feeling I had when I finally got to write on College-ruled paper instead of wide-ruled and regular-size pencils instead of those big green ones.

Of course I have the big green ones now … but it’s totally ironic. Seriously.

Just east of here and on the south side of the street is the coolest building in the area:

If I had a successful design agency, I would totally have this building, at least partially. And I would totally have the big diamond-windowed office. A harlequin building! Mine, you!

The area is, of course, very close to I-205, which provides for a bit of urban layering:

This is what I do. Look up at signs and enjoy the play of line, angle, curve, and color. And sunny days are still rare in Portland at this time of year.

But the new crop of street blades are in bloom. And looking good.

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[pdx] The Sandy-Couch-Burnside Couplet Cometh: A Piece Of PDX, Going Away …

Posted in liff in PDX, photography, Portland Photos, Street Blade Gallery on March 21, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

… that particular piece being the two blocks of NE Sandy Blvd between NE 12th Avenue and NE 14th Avenue, as the area we like to call the Six Points East is going to become the eastern anchor to the new Burnside-Couch One-Way couplet that feeds down to the so-called Burnside Bridgehead at MLK and the Bridge.

East Burnside Street will be one-way eastbound from MLK to NE 14th Avenue, where eastbound traffic to Sandy will be routed.

NE Couch will peel westbound traffic off NE Sandy Blvd at 14th Avenue and route that traffic to the bridge via the zero-hundred block of NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The 1200 and 1300 Blocks of NE Sandy Blvd will cease to be – along with the business frontage of Northwest Fitness.

The following series of images depict new views of Portland and views that you won’t be able to see after the middle of next month without breaking major traffic laws. I debated breaking this up, but I’ll put it all in one post, the better to find as a landing zone. Maybe I’ll break it apart at some future time.

The new overblades on the street signal overheads now not only carry the new Clearview font and design style but also the iconic Portland rose that has so far been seen on the slightly-older overblades.

The numbered avenue overblade. The block number is not shown because it’s obvious that 12th Avenue defines the 1200 block. Clearview and rose.

Lloyd Center Union (not next to Lloyd Center, and not a Union 76 Station) is a auto service garage that’s been at the corner of NE 12th and Couch for as long as anyone can remember. Maybe it was once a Union 76 station, I don’t know. For a long time it was painted just like one, and had to carry a sign saying that no gas was available was there. The blue-and-orange sign over the blue garage door on the left there is a remnant of that livery. Traffic in front of Lloyd Center Union is going to get very busy soon – but just westbound.

This is the view you’ll see running westbound down Couch as you approach NE 11th Avenue from now on as you drive toward the Burnside Bridge. From now, on, to view it the way you used to … that is to say, like this:

You’ll be breaking major traffic laws, as well as just putting yourself into bodily harm. Speaking of which, I did stand for a few minutes in the very middle of East Burnside Street … but there was no traffic, as you can see. This is the beauty of taking pictures in Portland, Oregon, on a Sunday morning.

A friend from my past called Portland “The City That Always Sleeps”. Here, we haven’t yet unrolled the sidewalks.

NE 11th between Burnside and Couch. Nice to know that Cthulhu’s minions represent. Of course, the Lower Burnside crowd can be kind of rough sometimes, so they get a run for their money. Best you just retire to Union Jack’s around the corner, look at the nekkid laydees, and knock back a drink or two.

Here’s something else you’re going to see more of now that you’ll be going down to the bridge on NE Couch Street – it’s called Norse Hall. Been there since the 1920s, I understand. Big ol’ clubhouse, meeting space, that sort of thing. Across the street …

… at 100 NE 11th Avenue, is German Formula, another auto shop for das Volksvagen amongst other fine examples of German engineering. Well kept and maintained, it exults in its birthday – 1929.

The signs you’ll see next are ones that will be certainly made obsolete by the new street alignment – they’re landmarks, and they show their age.

There will be no need for this sort of direction when the width of Burnside is all going one way and there’s no Sandy Boulevard between 12th and 14th Avenues.

The silver poles holding up these signs are warhorses, stalwarts, and have rust on spots, but where other places they’d look like wear, here, they’re badges of honor.

This bit of road will soon be a bit of history.

That old sign over 12th Avenue is probably going to be replaced. It certainly needs to. But I enjoy it. And the driver of that car probably thinks I’m a nut for standing in the middle of the street in front of him and taking pix. And maybe he’s right. Who knows?

Another thing that will change … that’s the 1300 block of Burnside, and that car on the left would otherwise be found one block north from here.

I gave the fellow fifteen cents. It was all I had to give him, but I don’t think you should have to beg for coffee in Portland. Seems just as unjust as having to make your living by begging that way anyway. I hope he found his cuppa.

Another look at the bit of Sandy that will cease to be. If you turn 180 degrees, you see something people aren’t generally aware of … and that’s Southeast Sandy Blvd.

It goes down the hill until the true beginning of Sandy, which is SE 7th Avenue and Washington Street. Up until now it was good to know; you just went straight though and before you knew it, you were on SE Morrison Street or Belmont, if you wanted. Now, it’ll take two extra turns and a couple more traffic lights.

The new traffic flow to Sandy will be eastbound on Burnside until 14th Avenue, then north a block, behind Northwest Fitness. The new street is being improved:

That side of the Northwest Fitness building, I’m told, is to be – as far as the address goes, anyway – the new front to the building. One thing that probably won’t change is the old Sandy Hut Tavern:

… which will be sitting, prow-like, at the Couch-Sandy wedge for a while to come yet, by the looks of things.

The Excecutive Lodge – which may or may not cater to actual executives – is across from here, and has a bit of vintage neon on the side:

… all Color TV Air Conditioned. Now, my friends, that’s luxury. And the only way you’ll get this viewpoint from now forward is on foot.

The Portland Bottling Co. building has been in the news lately, because of what some company did to the landmark 7-Up sign up top. I sure wish they’d of left that alone; I’m not about to go looking for that tea bottle just because they put it up there. The sign is dead to me. But the architecture of the building is so very Art Deco, that I’m glad they didn’t cover it up. It’s like looking at an old, well preserved car.

I feel like I’m looking at an old Terraplane when I see this side of the building.

I don’t care what anyone else says; thats a face at corner of the building. It’s hungry. And it’s coming for me.

Art Deco detail, 1920s style type. What’s not to get lost in over here? As architectures go, Portland Bottling Company is a collectors item, a grubby gem.

Here’s a new street blade at 13th and Couch that combines the border from the earliest new-style blades with the type structure of the later ones.

Here’s a crossing signal that is definitely going away …

As is that one.

And here’s one more image of the bit of Sandy that’s going away:

From that two-armed signal gantry to the limit of sight, that’s a major Portland throughfare that’s going away, in the name of progress, development, or something.

I myself shall miss it when it’s gone. Six Points East was an annoying, amusing intersection – but there’s worse things in life than having to wait though it (at least if you aren’t late for something). And it’s an authentic Portland quirk, rather than all the manufactured ones you see so much of these days.

Well, I hope the new Burnside-Couch couplet does all the things they say it’s going to do.

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[pdx] Where César E Chávez Meets Rosa Parks

Posted in liff in oregon, liff in PDX, Street Blade Gallery on March 21, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

I recall that, on the first go-around, those in favor of the Interstate Avenue rename to César E. Chávez Boulevard plan used, as a selling point, the visual poetry and justice of having the names of two giants of justice cross at a point in front of the New Seasons Market at Interstate and what-was-then-just-renamed Portland Boulevard.

In the new age of CEC Blvd, they’ve gotten their wish really, just not in a way they’d of expected. Now, César E. Chávez Blvd does indeed intersect Rosa Parks Way …

… only this is Rosa Parks Way …

… and this is NE César E. Chávez Blvd …

Not to mention that NE 39th Avenue got upgraded to a Boulevard, whereas Portland Boulevard got downgraded to a mere Way.

None of this should be interpreted as my having any problem with 39th being renamed to honor Chávez, or Portland Blvd being renamed to honor Rosa Parks (as a matter of fact, I find I like them rathermuch), but rather an indication of the perversity of the universe, which once again schools us that you may get what you want, but the crucible of obtaining will sometimes surprise us by giving it to us in a way that nobody ever counted on.

Universe’s funny that way.

Somewhat on a tangent, we also note that a street named for its proximity to Portland Blvd, NE Portland Blvd Ct., has retained its old name (there’s precedence for this with SW Ford Street Dr, which references a no-longer-extant Ford Street), which is lucky for the Portland sign shop, as a NE Rosa Parks Way Ct blade would be about as awkward to mount as it is to say.

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[liff] What Will You Find Under A Bridge, But Troll Avenue? (Seattle)

Posted in liff, Sign Design, Street Blade Gallery, Teh Funnay, Wierd and Funny on February 2, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2314.Tipped off by an offhand comment Benjamin Lukoff left on the César E Chávez Blvd, I paid a virtual visit to That City Up North to see if I could see something.

Legend has it, trolls live under bridges. Seattle, like PDX, has many bridges; and like PDX, in more than a few cases, the approach to the bridge is as a viaduct built over the street it debouches onto, creating a sort of “under-street” over which the bridge forms a ceiling. There are five blocks of this under the east approaches to the Morrison and Hawthorne Bridges, for instance, and SE Morrison, SE Belmont, SE Hawthorne Blvd, and SE Madison St run beneath them as streets open to traffic.

The George Washington Memorial Bridge, or the Aurora Bridge in the local parlance because it unites the sections of Aurora Avenue north and south of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, has several blocks of Aurora Avenue N under the bridge on the north side. It’s said the Fremont Troll lived or lives there, and a great amazing statue of him (clutching a real VW Beetle) was constructed there in his honor.

So, too, was the street under the bridge so named, apparently in 2005, Troll Avenue N.

Google Maps Street View, looking west on N. 34th Street:

Right in the middle of the bridge, at the pier foot there, is the sign:

Once again, I do like the design of the Seattle street blades, though they aren’t using Clearview. No time like the present, New York Alki!

Keep it weird, Seattle. That’s why we love you.

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