by Low Lai Chow in New Design on Thursday 5 June 2014

This is so cool. Every month, an individual is invited to use a 36-ft long rooftop billboard on the corner of Highland and Baum in Pittsburgh to announce any message they like. Pablo Garcia and Jon Rubin are the designers behind the billboard, while the curative eye of Jon Rubin Billboard guides the project. The wooden letters are changed by hand as well. We love some of the messages that stand so starkly apart from the neon banality of the typical billboards with commercial messages.

UPDATE: Here’s a sneak peek at our upcoming interview with curator Jon Rubin!

How’d you get a hold off a 36-foot long rooftop billboard?

From 2009 to 2013, I ran a project in the storefront below the billboard called The Waffle Shop. The Waffle Shop was a functioning restaurant that produced and broadcast a live-streaming video talk show with its customers as the guests and sometime hosts. Just before I started renting the storefront space Lamar Advertising decided to not renew their lease with the landlord (who owned the billboard on top of the roof). The ad company removed everything but the bare frame of the billboard.

From the looks of it the structure must have been built nearly sixty years ago during the heyday of Pittsburgh’s economy. I approached the landlord and asked if I could lease the space and construct a custom billboard that would function as a space for thoughts and ideas as opposed to advertising. I asked my talented friend Pablo Garcia to design a rail system that would allow for the manual changing of wooden letters. I liked the idea of physically getting up there and changing each sign in a very slow and deliberate way. In a world of instant and ephemeral communication the labor of maintaining the billboard seems to give more weight to what is said. I also like how the use of the rails let the words sort of float in the sky.