Each crossing incorporates the existing zebra-style design. (Rafael Pérez Martinez/Courtesy Christo Guelov)
The crosswalks can be found around schools in the Madrid suburb of Torrelodones. (Rafael Pérez Martinez/Courtesy Christo Guelov)
Christo Guelov transformed boring zebra crossings into fun pieces of art. (Rafael Pérez Martinez/Courtesy Christo Guelov)
Guelov hopes that pedestrians and drivers will take crosswalks more seriously now that they're works of art. (Courtesy Christo Guelov)

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Colorful Crosswalks Paint the Streets of Madrid

This art was made to be stepped all over

smithsonian.com

Zebra-style crosswalks are the perfect example of urban utilitarianism. Sure, they get people from point A to point B safely, but they’re not exactly known for their show-stopping style. But what if crossing the street could be an adventure in art? As Christopher Jobson reports for Colossal, an artist has transformed once-drab crosswalks in a suburb of Madrid into vibrant works of art. 

Christo Guelov is a Madrid-based conceptual artist originally from Bulgaria, and his 2015 projects “FUNNYCROSS” and "FUNNYCROSS II," have been making the rounds on social media for good reason: Guelov uses the universal zebra-style crossing—a concept originally developed by British transportation researchers in the late 1940s—as a backdrop for bold graphic designs that are fanciful enough to potentially stop pedestrians in their tracks.

“The only permanent element today…is change,” he writes on his website. “Change has established as a rule in in the world of visual communication. It is the art of the present.”

In the case of his colorful crosswalks, Guelov’s art becomes a partnership with the people crossing it. He used four standard zebra-style crossings throughout Torrelodones, transforming the black-and-white landscape into one that’s saturated with funky colors. For Guelov, it’s a chance to intervene in something that’s already there—and the art has a deeper goal. He hopes to improve the focus of pedestrians and drivers “by enhancing respect for zebra crossing using its visual impact.”

The pieces accomplish their goal without losing a sense of whimsy. That same concept has made its way to other cities, too. Take Baltimore, Maryland: In 2013, the city added crosswalks that feature everything from hopscotch squares to giant zippers. And last year’s London Design Festival invited artists to turn an entire street’s crosswalks into amazing pieces of art, prompting Curbed’s Jeremiah Budin to speculate that society has now entered “the age of the fun crosswalk.”

Is work like Guelov’s a harbinger of a new era or just a really cool way to get across a busy street? You be the judge—if you’re not too busy looking down.

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