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Urban Graffiti from the Perspective of Urban Design

An interactive dialogue between art and urban space


Our ongoing innovation project in Newcastle city centre has entered the second phase of concept and strategy development. Inspired by Mr. Alan Wann’s lectures on the interactive cases of different communities, I started to pay attention to the urban graffiti in Newcastle. Through reading literature and case studies, I have gathered information on urban graffiti in many other cities and hope to use the concept of urban graffiti in my project concepts.

What is urban graffiti?

I learned that ordinary graffiti painting is only two-dimensional visual expression of points, lines and surfaces. The painting content they express is compressed into flat graphics, usually using bright color collisions to obtain strong visual impact paintings. But the world we live in is three-dimensional, and each object has its own quality and texture. Urban graffiti requires three-dimensional thinking, and the creation of breakthroughs in flat display requires consideration of the location and environment of the painting. Connecting with the city’s community creates a stronger visual impact. Contemporary urban graffiti art forms are more diverse, from traditional two-dimensional plane graffiti to the pursuit of three-dimensionality. The graffiti art in 3D space includes urban sculptures, installation art, car bodies and even containers in terms of material selection. Its content, form and layout will interact with the actual urban space functions, and play a role in guiding tourists to imagine the interaction between urban space and urban history and culture. Below I will share some of the more interesting urban graffiti.

The satirical nature of urban graffiti


The graffiti ‘The Thief’ is on the front of a sexual health clinic in Park Street, Bristol city centre. [1]The city council tried to remove the graffiti due to its location close to the city council, but after a public referendum it has remained. The author relates the function of the building through the content of the painting. The black and white style of the painting uses red curtains to reflect the front and back of the space giving the work a sense of space. In conjunction with the red brick buildings on the street, it gives a sense of the city’s long history. Regardless of the content, the form and interaction between the city’s architecture and the visitor through the graffiti is worth considering.

The fun and interactive nature of urban graffiti


More creative styles and artistic techniques are being used in graffiti art. Graffiti artworks are more artistic and have a tendency to focus more on public communication. Art in the environment is conditioned to accommodate the viewer, who becomes an essential visual element in such works, and can also be described as a process of mobilising the viewer to think about and experience the art. Graffiti art in the perspective of postmodern thinking is no longer a monologue of the artist, but a new form of artistic expression in which the viewer participates in an interactive process. The seemingly exaggerated and grotesque shapes and scenes and fantastical stories are in fact derived from their own life experiences, reflecting social realities and hoping to draw the attention of city administrators with the aim of making society more harmonious and allowing people to experience a better life.


Newcastle city graffiti collage from my photo

Situation and Summary

Urban graffiti is a neglected and rarely used part of urban design, but it is the most interactive expression of local artistic and cultural identity and is closely related to the daily life of city dwellers. Precisely because graffiti is so targeted and socially satirical, it is difficult to get government permission to restrict it in urban design. But I think the interaction of urban graffiti with neighborhoods and urban amenities is interesting and engaging. It has a visual impact that is difficult to give to visitors through other forms of urban design.

Ultimately, it shows that urban graffiti is an emotional expression of great conflict and inspiration. Paintings that can be seen in the public domain every day seem to be a new form of artistic expression, but they carry the typical characteristics of the times and the rich inner reflections of ordinary people. As a special form of artistic expression, it exists in public places. Contemporary graffiti art is distributed in every corner of the urban public realm in its unique way, supporting and enriching the art form of urban communities and promoting the further development of public art.

Future thinking

In the near future, with the advent of the 5G network era and the continuous improvement and maturity of display and virtual reality technologies, more civilized and interesting urban graffiti will be presented to us in different ways. Virtual reality frees the way of urban graffiti. Display technology makes graffiti sites more open, and transparent displays can turn historic buildings into backgrounds to inspire the creators’ paintings. Urban graffiti will promote the diversification of the neighborhood together with the urban landscape and attract more young people to come. Visit and think.

Preliminary drawing of ccz project







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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Telephone: 0191 208 6509