SOMEWHERE AT THE INTERSECTION of urban design, pop culture, demographics, and architecture lies the defining character of Brand Avenue, an engaging blog whose interdisciplinary approach offers the reader a steady diet of tasty brain food. Author Chris Timmerman, an architecture intern working at HOK in St. Louis, is quick to reveal his strong interest in the subject of “place.” But his definition of the term is clearly organic, subject to a wide range of influences, including mass media, transportation, virtual environments, and retail trends.
What is so enticing about the blog is Timmerman's ability to make connections that aren't immediately obvious. And although he says his architecture education often pressed him to focus on individual buildings, his strategy for the site is to keep the broader picture in mind. In March 2005, writing in his first blog post, Timmerman revealed a keen interest in how the architect's power as an image-maker and a stage-setter for cultural advancement can be applied at a larger, urban scale. That entry linked to a New York magazine story chronicling the rise of the “microneighborhood.” In June, he highlighted an article about how NBC is amassing 30,000 songs to aid its narrative coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics, connecting the power of music with associations to specific places. One of his favorite offerings was a post titled “Urban Pre-Planning,” which discussed the qualitative approach to city planning being practiced by the design firm IDEO.
Now 30, Timmerman launched the blog shortly after finishing graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, choosing the name “Brand Avenue” to convey the notion that culture is explicitly spatial. He updates the site weekly, often including photographs and links to videos to enliven the mix of content. These days, he's getting about 3,600 hits per month. While Timmerman admits that Brand Avenue helps keep him focused on his own interests, he also acknowledges a wider agenda for the blog: “To make a contribution to a greater conversation about the places we inhabit, our relationships to them, how culture and place are interrelated, and how we capitalize on this.” More than three years into his effort, Timmerman has clearly found his spot on the map.