Stating the obvious

text for the bilingual periodical publication Kallisteia,
Issue No.2, signs and labels, 06/2002

Stating the obvious
There are different kinds of buildings and lots of different signs. Signs are attached to buildings. They are additions, accessories. 
Suppose there are no signs. Would we get lost?
Suppose there were no buildings, only signs. Arrival and departure would be obsolete. There would only be directions; no destinations.
Signs name things, places, or direct us; they are warnings of events.
A door is a door. An EXIT sign on it, makes it a door through which we anticipate an exit.
A road is a road, signs give it a beginning and an end.
There is an infinite number of possibilities for the existence things may acquire. Signs assign and define this existence. They tell us what things are. Or they divert us.
The language of words is more precise than the language of space. Space does not have added meaning, the same with buildings, yet words do, so the impact is much stronger when words are added onto buildings and spaces. Our experience is predetermined, our movement more exact, our destination much clearerThe world we live in is a world supported by signs. Perhaps it is something to do with security. Everyone knows what the Guggenheim Museum looks like, but why does it need to have it in writing on its faade?
Everyone knows what spaghetti looks like, then why is it written on the package?
Double u sees
Many times I remember looking for the WCs in airports, being directed through vast terminal corridors following the toilet signs, ignoring thousands of other signs in my way. The sense of distance and orientation became relative to my urgency. My experience of space was a simple consequence of the route the signs made me follow. Architectural planning was obsolete; architecture invisible.
The mind can become fixed on one sign, editing all other information in an extremely clear cutting manner; words have a much greater impact on our experience of space; even though architectural planning cant do without signs, an abundance of signs can render architecture totally invisible.
When I was given the theme for this issue, I tried to think of the most universal sign to do with architectural planning. The sign a public building cant do without. It is undoubtedly the WC sign. Yet, it is a sign with an added controversy. It names a space for a very private function; in public isolation. Its vacancy or occupancy is also declared by sign postage in many cases, such as in aircrafts.
The graphic language of the WC sign has transcended the word itself; such as our activity within this defined space has at times transcended the specified function too. Our memory of a building can be relatively vague, but our visit to the WC, can become the most detailed recollection of our experience of it. The level of cleanliness, the lack of paper, an accidental meeting, the queuing, the smell of soap, the disfunctional lock, the hand dryer. Our experience is disproportionate to the time spent in this space. Our memories of WCs are so detailed.
Signs have a complete and utterly direct impact on our experience of space. It is like a dress code of the world we live in, a code without which we wouldnt know how to find spaces, places, locations.
In proportion very few sq.m allocated for this wc function to take place, though always located at critical distances between them, and following particular design specifications. Two doors and a series of cubicals with the necessary sanitary installations, separated for men and women, and supported by supply of water, and a sewage system. Such mundane installations have been dressed with such imaginative signs. Wcs would be invisible if signs didnt exist.
There is a lot of writing about signs and their semiology
So much writing about signs and so much writing on buildings.
At night
A city bare of its image, is full of signs. A city bare of its buildings, dressed in signs and lights and black and colors. There are signs to attract you and signs to keep you away. Signs tell you things; they inform. Signs on buildings are information, additional or basic. There are buildings that ramble with information and buildings that tell you exactly what you need to know. But at night you cant see them.
In the day
There are buildings that have become signs and signs that have become buildings.