Welcome to the website of Martin Treu

With the release of Martin’s new book, Signs, Streets, and Storefronts, we’re just beginning to gather reviews from a variety of sources, some of which are below. But more are certainly on the way — so please check back soon!

John A. Jakle, The Journal of American History

“Martin Treu has made a thorough review of a vast literature on buildings and signs as they have combined over time to influence the look of commercial streets in the United States. He is concerned with the look of retail stores, although his purview embraces business buildings generally, including theaters, banks, and office buildings in older traditional business districts, and gas stations and drive-in restaurants along newer highway-oriented commercial strips. At issue is the prevailing tension between what architects and sign makers intended, the former too often ignoring the need for signs in architectural design, and the latter too frequently demeaning architectural styling through aggressive sign overlay. In a brief introduction Treu identifies interest groups essential to the changing…”

Please visit The Journal of American History’s website here to read John Jackle’s entire review of Signs, Streets, and Storefronts.


Stanford Magazine

“The attention paid to architectural history is seldom paid to commercial signage, and yet the latter can be just as key to distinctive landscape and is more easily lost. Treu has spent a lot of time on blue highways and in town squares documenting signscapes that he thinks are too often dismissed as “eyesores” and too readily stripped down to ahistorical or bland conformity.”


S. D. Scott-Fundling, Marymount University — in July 2013 issue of “CHOICE” a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries

“This important volume, [Signs, Streets, and Storefronts], by architect and environmental graphic designer Treu addresses American street front architecture and urban planning. Black-and-white photographs illustrate the history and development of commercial architecture in old city centers with important images of lost buildings that were demolished for improved transportation corridors. The author provides an insightful assessment of the American townscape and the unique individual character of commercial architecture. He thoroughly reviews sign types, character, and craftsmanship, and their significant impact on architectural design and city planning. Numerous color photographs highlight main street facades, ornamentation, and evolutionary changes in building designs to unify commercial design with the advancement of advertisements. Treu identifies the loss of character and meaning experienced today with homogenized strip shopping centers, and makes a compelling case for the role signs have in defining places as memorable and distinctive, with creative graphics and place-associated communication. Treu argues for recognition of building signs as part of the collective memory of common places of the past, and as an important reminder that one’s architectural heritage is found in everyday experiences with the attached meaning of particular places and context.”