After a long, cold winter, many of us are itching to lock away our wool coats, slip into our flip-flops, and dash to the beach. That’s especially the case for Matt Tomasulo, the artist behind the Raleigh Beach proposal that would transform the corner of West Hargett Street into an alluring summertime oasis in inland North Carolina. His Raleigh Beach rendering depicts sunbathers soaking up the sun while lying on the sand as swimmers cool-off in the pools.
Tomasulo, who is also the founder of CityFabrics, a company that prints figure-ground city maps on t-shirts, wallets, and more, daringly printed and posted a large rendering on his Raleigh Beach proposal on a fence at the vacant lot in Raleigh just outside of downtown, later splashing the scene online on the proposal’s Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook pages where it attracted hundreds of followers and received both positive and negative reactions from the community.
This isn’t the first time Tomasulo has stirred things up—in a good way—in Raleigh. The designer was also responsible for last year’s Walk Raleigh “guerilla way-finding” movement, in which he and a small group of students posted 27 colorful signs on three street corners in Raleigh that stated how long it would take to walk from one destination to the other. His goal was to promote a healthier community by encouraging people to do more walking. The campaign successfully generated discussion about walking in Raleigh and attracted the attention of over 23 cities who wanted to bring the movement to their own city, leading Tomasulo to launch the Walk [Your City] website. Small-scale interventions like the Walk Raleigh campaign are part of a growing trend toward Tactical Urbanism to transform American cities.
This time, though, Tomasulo confessed that his Raleigh Beach concept is fake and that the proposed scene would not be coming to Raleigh this summer, despite bold letters on the sign stating, “Coming this summer!” But with enough support, one day it could. His aim was to pique the community’s interests, start a conversation about the transformation of the empty, unused downtown lot, and encourage people to think about the best way for it to serve the community. If he can rally enough support for the project Tomasulo might be able to convince the property owner, 607 West Morgan Street, to transform his city-beach rendering into a reality.
After all, urban beaches like this aren’t unprecedented. Paris has famously shipped tons of sand and palm trees onto the banks of the Seine in the summer for its Paris Plage program. The French city—which has been ahead of its time on other urban interventions like a High Line style park, the Promenade Plantée, that predates New York’s wildly popular example—announced last year the Paris Plage could become a completely car-free waterfront.