The Aesthetic Design of Freeways

March 1, 2015
A Reading List

A collection of resources exploring the physical design of freeway and highway infrastructure — from the shapes of interchanges to the cinderblock patterns on freeway sound walls. It’s about the way freeways look, the way they appear (or don’t) to the driver and passenger, how they use the land, and how their concrete forms have been sculpted and grafted onto the landscape.

This list has a slight bias towards articles and writings about Los Angeles and Southern California, but many of the takeaway points from these specific resources can be (and have been) applied to other freeways around the world. This list does not really delve into the politics and controversies behind the development of freeways, nor does it explore in any great depth the history of how freeways came to be. And, it’s worth noting that this list does not include the rather technical freeway design manuals used by state departments of transportation, mostly because they’re a little too specific and heavy on the civil engineering. Not that that stuff isn’t important, but this reading list is more interested in what has guided the aesthetic evolution of freeways and how design has (or hasn’t) had an impact on the visual quality of freeway infrastructure and its interface with its surroundings.