Take 20 Minutes and Listen to This: “The SoHo Effect” by 99 Percent Invisible

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Diego Grandi)

99 Percent Invisible is not a new podcast, and The SoHo Effect is not even a new episode. But on a recent re-listen during a long car trip, I realized that there’s a whole lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of Apartment Therapy readers and people who would probably find this story fascinating. So here we are. I’m writing, and you’re reading, a very forthright recommendation: Go listen to this 19 minute, 38 second podcast.

For those unfamiliar, 99 Percent Invisible is a podcast about design—a project of KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco. Their focus is “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world.” You’ve probably heard about it, as it’s one of the most popular podcasts out there, but just in case you haven’t—consider the podcast series itself another strong recommend from me.

But I specifically wanted to write today to point our readers to one particular episode from last year, titled “The SoHo Effect.”

It’s partially about the history of NYC’s SoHo neighborhood and its reinvention from industrial area to starving artists’ haven to arguably the trendiest neighborhood in the city—a transition that happened sometime around the 1960s to usher in the aesthetic of industrial chic, starting a wave in interior design that we’re still riding today. But the episode is more about the name given to the area—SoHo. “South of Houston Street.” It’s something that 99 Percent Invisible coined an “acroname”:

“And these conventions have permeated just about every major city in America. In New York, there are brokers rebranding parts of Harlem as SoHa, sections of Little Italy as NoLita, and entire swaths of The Bronx as SoBro. And often with these new names, come newer, higher property valuations. At the intersection of Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, (ProCro) real estate brokers now list properties in the traditionally more affordable area of Crown Heights at Prospect Heights price points.”

The episode touches on real estate and branding, too. And then there’s a really interesting segment asking people what they call their neighborhood in Philadelphia; it serves to open the episode up for commentary on gentrification—I don’t want to spoil it for you, other than to say, again, it’s worth listening to. And it casts another giant shadow on the concept of “acronames” in general.

You can give it a listen right from the 99 Percent Invisible website. Or, if you’d rather read along, the article on the same page touches on many of the same points.

The SoHo Effect,” from 99 Percent Invisible