Ugly Roads

Ugly roads are often taken to be a price of civilization, like sewers or police. The boring, chaotic, disoriented landscape, which seems to be the natural habitat for theAmerican automobile, is tolerated with resignation by the highway user. Even those who are alarmed by the ugliness of the roadways emphasize the repression of vice: roads should melt into the landscape; billboards should be controlled; the scars of construction should be disguised by planting. There is little discussion of turning the high-way experience to any positive account.

Yet roadwatching can be a delight. There are many journeys that are enjoyable in. themselves: walking, horse-back riding, boating, rides in amusement parks, or on open bus tops. There are even a few roads in this country on which driving a car is a pleasure.

In an affluent society it is possible to choose to build roads in which motion, space, and view are organized primarily for enjoyment, like a promenade. But on highways whose primary function is the carriage of goods and people, visual form is also of fundamental importance and can be shaped without interfering with traffic flow. It is the landscape seen from these workaday urban highways that will be discussed here from the standpoint of the driver and his passengers; for the purposes of this analysis the issue of how the highway looks from the outside will be ignored. (…)

The modern car interposes a filter between the driver and the world he is moving through. Sounds, smells, sensations of touch and weather are all diluted. Vision is framed and limited; the driver is relatively inactive. He has less opportunity to stop, explore, or choose his path than does the man on foot. Only the speed, scale, and grace of his movement can compensate for these limitations.

Donald Appleyard, Kevin Lynch, John R. Myer, The View from the Road (1964)

Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Craigieburn Bypass (2005)

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