Edge City and “Ooh Ah”

Joel Garreau wrote Edge City quite a few years ago. In the literature about the growth of the suburbs it’s somewhat unique. He love’s them, and he really loves their developers. Which is fun because he can cheerfully explain all their jargon without the least bit of eye rolling. That, in turn, allows the reader to remain a cherry bemused detached observer.

It’s a book well worth reading but I wanted to mention it because there is are a few terms in there that ought to be more widely adopted.

One is ground cover, which I’ve discussed at much greater length before. Ground cover is a developer’s term for the crap you build on a property while your waiting for the right time to build your office park or 500 town houses. The important thing about ground cover is that it should a) pay your taxes, b) make a small profit, and c) be sufficiently ugly that when you want to tear it down the community will thank you rather than put up a fuss. U-storage facilities, use car dealer ships, and many low end malls are actually ground cover.

A lot of Googles recent offerings strike me as a bit like ground cover, i.e. their blog search engine.

Another term is plop-art. I.e. the art that developers place about their creations, art that must must never ever offend anybody. You see this a lot in packaging, graphic design for web sites, page back grounds, carpet and wall paper design.

If your buy into importance of plop-art then what Google does with the banner on their home page is actually very daring. Plop-art is the art that can not be tagged.

Today’s term is the “Ooh Ah.” High end real estate will always feature a few Ooh Ahs. The high end home will have a bidet, for example. The high end office building will have hair dryers in the men’s rooms. The point of a “Ooh Ah” is to cause the buyer to pause and say “Ooh” and then a moment later ‘ah’. So bathroom fixtures are good. But huge atriums, fountains in unexpected places, surprise views, clever parking gadgets, will all fill the need.

In part the “Ooh Ah” role is to give the buyer something to talk about after the viewing. A conversational hook later when he’s discussing the property with other decision makers. It should be one or more of light, amusing, striking, etc.

Microsoft recently revealed a very good “Ooh Ah” as part of their rebanding of virtual earth under the Live.com brand. These really striking photographs taken from various angles at low altitudes. They bought those from a company that sells them to people who are interested in keeping their eye’s on the real estate. Local government highway departments for example. In my state all the local towns have access to these. (see PictoMetry).

You really always ought to have some “Ooh Ahs” in your offerings. I’m thinking of getting an atrium installed in my personality.

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