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在温哥华回味霓虹灯之都的盛衰史

更新时间:2018-5-16 20:44:05 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

North America's unexpected neon jungle
在温哥华回味霓虹灯之都的盛衰史

Wide shot: a city’s majestic backdrop of sea and sky, skirted by folds of Douglas fir, and deep, zigzagging fjords. Zoom in: a downtown core on the rise, a mixture of newly built condominiums, theatres and red-brick saloons. Close-up: in the middle, a hodgepodge of advertising signs and overhead utility lines rearing out of the darkness. And the big picture: the sky electrified in a glow of red, yellow and green as 19,000 neon lights switch on.

远镜头:壮阔的大海和天空是城市背景,周围还环绕着层峦叠嶂的道格拉斯冷杉和深邃蜿蜒的峡湾。近镜头:正在扩大的市中心,新落成的公寓、剧院,还有红砖房的酒吧。特写镜头:画面中间,一大堆闪亮的广告牌和头顶上的电线浮现在黑夜中。全镜头:19,000个霓虹灯五颜六色的光芒照亮了天空。

Step back in time to 1950s Vancouver, and this is what would have greeted you after sailing across the Georgia Strait to the city’s historical district of Gastown. From here to the suburbs, the streets hummed with transporters and Frankenstein-like glass insulators. Logging agencies, lumberjack recruiters – even churches – advertised with neon lettering, while residents amped up their houses with neon door numbers. Harder to believe still, the city produced more strip neon than anywhere else on the planet, with one sign for every 18 residents, and 12 factories, including the world’s largest.

回到1950年代,当你穿过乔治亚海峡来到温哥华古老的街区煤气镇,首先映入眼帘的就是上面这幅景象。从这里到郊区的街道上,人声嘈杂,到处都是搬运工以及电杆上颜色惨绿如电影中科学怪人的玻璃绝缘体。木材公司、伐木工人招聘,就连教堂都用霓虹灯做宣传,市民自家门牌号也用的是霓虹灯。更难以置信的是,當時温哥华条状霓虹灯产量全球第一,平均每18个人,每12个工厂就有一个霓虹灯招牌,世界最大的霓虹灯也在这里。

Stories like this aren’t supposed to happen in the middle of the Pacific Northwest’s beautiful temperate rainforests. Maybe in Hong Kong, Las Vegas or Shanghai, cities where streets besieged with neon are part of downtown lore. But Vancouver, Canada’s great-outdoors capital? The sheer volume of neon colour juxtaposed with its beautiful natural setting seems alien. Yet the truth that it was one of the world’s first capitals of neon is unlike anything stereotypes of the city might lead you to expect.

此番景象好像不该出现在这个北美的太平洋西北地区美丽的温带雨林中,该在香港、拉斯维加斯或者上海这样的城市——霓虹街道本来就是這些城市的一部分。但竟然是温哥华,加拿大著名的户外之城?单是霓虹灯的五颜六色就与自然美景格格不入。但确实如此,温哥华就是世界一个早期的霓虹之都,与你对这座城市的想像必定大相径庭。

To learn more, I contacted John Atkin, a Vancouver-born civic historian, heritage consultant and neon expert. “Neon and rain are made for each other – it makes the colour diffuse and come alive – and that really helps explain why there was such a boom here,” he said as we toured the Museum of Vancouver’s permanent neon gallery on an overcast afternoon. “Vancouver has more grey days than anywhere else in North America, but it was also a streetcar city, which advertising neon is perfect for. Add the weather to the transport system, then factor in the low cost of leasing the signs as manufacturers began competing with each other, and neon boomed. It worked here.”

我想要多了解些情况,于是联系到了生于温哥华的城市历史学家、历史遗迹顾问兼霓虹灯专家阿特金斯(John Atkin)。我俩在一个灰蒙蒙的下午参观了温哥华博物馆以霓虹灯为主题的常设展览。阿特金斯说:"霓虹灯和降水是天生一对,雨水能让灯光渲染开来,变得无比生动,这也说明了温哥华为什么会有那么多霓虹灯。温哥华的阴天日子是北美最多的,而且又是个电车城市,非常适合用霓虹灯做广告。天气状况加之交通系统,以及制造商相互竞争令租借招牌非常便宜,诸如此类,霓虹灯因此遍地开花。这里适合用霓虹灯。"

The museum’s rich collection of aged and weathered signage comes from the groundwork of Atkin, who first curated an exhibition on the city’s neon history back in 2000. Two stand-outs are a gigantic pink-striped ‘R’ from Regent Tailors, first hung on West Hastings Street in 1960; and a buzzing red and green headstone designed for S Bowell & Sons Ltd Funeral Directors from the previous decade.

博物馆有许多年代久远痕迹斑斑的广告牌,这都多亏了阿特金斯的开创功劳。阿特金斯2000年开办了一个以温哥华霓虹灯历史为主题的展览。有两件展品非常特别,一件是丽晶裁缝铺(Regent Tailors)的招牌,一个巨大的粉色条纹字母"R",1960年最先挂在西喜士定街上。另一件是十几年前给S Bowell & Sons丧葬公司设计的霓虹灯招牌,一个红绿两色的发光墓石。

According to Atkin, the key thing that set Vancouver apart was the majority of sign makers here were art-school graduates. That meant there was a real consideration for design, and streets became canvases of typography, colour and action. The definition between where the building finished and art began started to blur.

阿特金斯认为温哥华与众不同的主要之处在于这里做招牌的大多來自艺术院校,有用心的艺术设计,街道就是他们排版、涂色以及创作的画布,建筑和艺术之间的界限变得模糊。

“The artists had fun with it,” said Atkin, as we looked upon one-sided mounts advertising a beauty salon, a dry cleaner, a garage, a dairy and a pool hall. “In the 1940s and 1950s, Vancouver wasn’t just lit by neon – it was illuminated with stories.”

我们欣赏着展柜中形形色色的霓虹灯招牌,有美容院的、干洗店的、车库的、乳品厂的和台球厅的等等。阿特金斯说:"设计这些招牌,艺术家们乐在其中,1940和1950年代点亮温哥华的不止是霓虹灯,还有很多故事。"

Atkin clearly remembers the tales that illuminated his childhood. When he was a boy, he used to cycle through the inner city on his way to swimming practice. He was an early riser, and somehow felt drawn to the rainbow-coloured signs on downtown Granville Street in the pre-dawn light, particularly vibrant around 05:00.

阿特金斯清楚记得照亮他童年的那些往事。他小时候会骑车穿过城中心去练习游泳,他起得很早,不知怎么就被市中心固兰湖街在晨曦照耀中的彩虹色招牌所深深吸引,他记得清晨5点那会儿最鲜明生动。

Share such stories with Vancouverites today and many will be puzzled. Tell them trees were covertly planted beneath well-known signs to blot out the visual noise and they’ll scarcely believe you. But there’s a good reason: the signs have all but gone, with most consigned to the scrapheap.

今天再跟温哥华人讲起这种事许多人会一头雾水,跟他们说在著名招牌下面种树,是用来遮蔽难看的视觉污染,可没人信你。但这也有原因:招牌都没了,大部分进了垃圾堆。

For history hasn’t been kind to Vancouver’s neon. Did it signal glamour and big-city living – or was it a vulgar display that vandalised a city? From the 1950s to 1970s, this was the question that divided the city, with neon becoming a symbol of a deep civic controversy and a lightning rod for critics.

历史并没有善待温哥华的霓虹灯。它究竟是大城市繁华生活的标志,还是有损城市形象的低俗装饰?从1950年代到1970年代,温哥华人在这个问题上意见分歧,霓虹灯引发了社会的重大争论,成了众矢之的。

By the 1960s, a growing suburbia meant neon had become demonised and associated with urban blight. “You can have civilisation, or you can have neon,” said one detractor, the criticism ironically lit up as a display at the museum. “It is vital to Vancouver’s reputation as a beautiful city… that these proposed sign controls be implemented before any more visual squalor is added to our most attractive streets,” said another at the height of the backlash.

1960年代郊区发展,霓虹灯被妖魔化,跟市区衰败联系起来。有反对者高喊"要文明还是要霓虹",这句批评也很讽刺地做成霓虹灯在博物馆里展出。在反对的高潮阶段有人这样说,"这对温哥华优美城市的称号至关重要……要施行招牌管控,以免在我们美丽的街道上出现更多的视觉垃圾。"

To the city’s lawmakers, the signage frustrated people’s expectations of what Vancouver – surrounded by a northern cape of mountains and forests – should be. The throbbing glow was seen as an ugly, seedy distraction. So by 1974, the city adopted its first comprehensive sign control bylaw, restricting new neon signage beyond measure.

温哥华的立法者认为,霓虹招牌实在有损于人们对这座城市形象的期望——温哥华被北方海角的群山和森林所环抱,而人们认为闪来闪去的发光招牌很丑,俗不可耐,遮掩了温哥华的自然之美。所以在1974年,温哥华通过了第一项招牌管控条例,对新霓虹灯招牌有规格限制。

As Atkin sees it, the distaste came from a misguided realisation of just how corrosive to society neon was. “The bylaws made it damn difficult to do anything,” he said. “Everything that made neon cool – you couldn’t do it anymore. And with it the craft started to disappear.”

在阿特金斯看来,人们讨厌霓虹灯是因为误以为它会腐蚀社会。他说:"管控条例让霓虹灯非常难弄,所有炫酷的东西都不能做了,所以工艺也开始消失。"

Today, examples of vintage neon still dot Vancouver, although you need to know where to look. For maximum impact, a walk through the city should take in The Orpheum and Vogue Theatre, two typographic verticals on Granville Street trimmed with bulbs. On nearby Hastings Street, a quick succession of marvels then spreads farther east, including signs such as those at Save On Meats, The Balmoral and The Pennsylvania (hotels turned social housing projects) and Ovaltine Cafe, a city fixture dating to the early 1940s.

如今,温哥华还有几处古老的霓虹灯,但你得知道去哪儿找。最有震撼力的要到固兰湖街的奥芬剧院和沃格剧院,两条垂直霓虹大招牌,用灯泡发光。在附近的喜士定街,一排令人称奇的霓虹灯招牌一直往东延伸,譬如肉食者餐厅、巴尔莫勒尔酒店、半岛社区(酒店演变而来的社会住房)和阿华田咖啡店的招牌,后者历史可以追溯至1940年代早期。

However, thanks to newly tempered bylaws keen to curtail downtown’s commercial decline, change is gathering pace, particularly in Chinatown, an area intrinsically tied to neon’s rise and fall because of the propensity of restaurants to embrace the advertising. Walk along East Pender Street and you’ll come to Sai Woo, a nearly 100-year-old restaurant, restored and reopened in 2015 as part of the area’s ongoing gentrification. Here, the unmissable 3x2m neon cockerel advertising chop suey – paid for by a community-supported C$19,000 Kickstarter campaign – is just the start of a welcome revival.

但为了挽救市中心商业的颓势,政府最近修改了条例,霓虹灯也重获新生,尤其是与霓虹灯兴衰与共的唐人街——那儿的餐厅喜欢用霓虹灯做招牌。沿着片打东街你会走到有近百年历史的西湖饭店,这一街区正在升级改造,西湖饭店也在2015年修整重开。饭店门前有个3米乘2米的霓虹灯公鸡你肯定不会错过,招牌写着chop suey(炒杂碎,一款在北美流行的美式中菜),由一个19,000加元的社区项目"启动者"(Kickstarter)出资制作。这只是温哥华霓虹灯复兴的开端。

“We’re bringing the neon back,” owner Salli Pateman told me, while staring out at the two-sided gold-and-green cockerel sign. “It’s happening again, and a year from now there’ll be five or so more places with signs like this. We’re salvaging the heritage of this neighbourhood.”

饭店老板帕特曼(Salli Pateman)望着双面闪灯金绿配色的公鸡广告牌,对我说:"我们正在让霓虹灯重返舞台,再过一年,还会有五个以上的地方要设置这样的广告牌。我们是在挽救社区的遗产。"

The message is clear: there’s a new generation willing to embrace the visual noise.

信号很明确:新的一代愿意接受这样的视觉污染。

Next for Chinatown is the return of Foo’s Ho Ho, Vancouver’s oldest Chinese restaurant and a place famous for a once-notorious neon artwork. It was the address for an incredibly complex four-storey sign depicting a two-sided bowl of steaming noodles with flashing, alternating English and Cantonese words. The campaign to restore it has been masterminded by restaurant owner Carol Lee. Designed from scratch by Atkin using a more streamlined design, and paid for through heritage grants and donations, the C$80,000 signboard will be unveiled later next year.

温哥华历史最久的中餐馆富陶陶也将重回唐人街,原来的招牌让它饱受诟病。那个四层楼高的广告牌设计繁复,是一碗热气腾腾的汤面,两面闪灯,并交替打出英文和粤语。饭店老板李女士(Carol Lee)负责策划修复饭店,阿特金斯起草设计了广告牌,线条更加流畅,8万加元的制作费来自历史遗迹补助和捐款,明年下半年亮相。

But while such visual ambition forms part of a wider lighting strategy to revitalise downtown Vancouver, it’s about more than just adding drama to the cityscape for locals. “It creates a sense of nostalgia, but also community,” said Pateman, looking up and down the street with a look of marked confidence. “When these signs are switched on, people will know Chinatown is back.”

霓虹灯这个野心勃勃的视觉项目是复兴温哥华市中心计划的一部分,不仅是给市容增添色彩活力而已。"霓虹灯产生了一种怀旧感,也创造了社区精神,"帕特曼扫视着街道自信满满地说到:"广告牌一亮,人们就知道唐人街又回来了。"

The ultimate symbol of Vancouver’s transition from west coast logging town to vibrant metropolis, neon was once the city’s hallmark. Tomorrow’s Vancouver – shining bright – will be as much a reaction to its past as it is a celebration of the future.

霓虹灯见证了温哥华由西海岸一个伐木业小镇发展为活力四射的大都市,过往曾是这个城市的标志。明天的温哥华,不忘过去,拥抱未来,霓虹灯闪闪发亮。

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