Take the Parkway to the Freeway to the Automated Roadway

May 20, 2016
The past and future of freeway landscapes

California’s freeways—its state highways, urban expressways, and interstates—cumulatively stretch 15,104 miles, end to end. Counting each lane separately, California has 51,326 drivable miles of freeway. Using the standard 12-foot width the state’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, uses for roadbuilding, California’s freeway system covers roughly 116 square miles. If California’s entire freeway system were stretched out along its 840-mile coastline, it would be sixty-one lanes wide.

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.

Muting the Freeway

December 1, 2014
How roadside noise barriers are designed to absorb sound and evade attention

The freeway sound wall may be as overlooked as it is ubiquitous. Lining interstates and highways and freeways across the United States, these concrete and cinderblock structures are a blur in the peripheral vision of our automotive world.

This is partially by design: sound walls serve the utilitarian role of blocking and containing the tremendous noise generated by high speed transportation, and they’re built to do their job without distracting the people driving past in thousand-pound vehicles at more than 100 feet per second.

From Autobahn Anomaly to Motorway Marvel: Berlin's Roadside Grandstands

December 20, 2018
An ambitious and unusual renovation project plans to transform former racetrack grandstands overlooking a motorway by 2021

Hamid Djadda is leaning out over the handrail on the stepped concrete grandstands of what was once one of the most famous raceways in Germany.

Opened in 1921, it was a marvel of the burgeoning automotive age: two long straights, capped by a hairpin turn and a wide arc just before the finish line. On race days, up to 4,000 people watched daring racing car drivers pilot the latest advancements in auto engineering, breaking land speed records – or crashing to their deaths trying.

Goodbye Highways

February 7, 2017
The carving up of cities by expressways is still a civil rights problem, but it's being solved as an economic one.

Since freeways began slicing through cities in the United States more than 75 years ago, they have carved deep and lasting lines of separation through countless communities. Many of these communities—located in so-called blighted areas—were made up of people of color who were simply pushed aside by the transportation officials building out the nation’s vast network of interstates and urban freeways. In a somewhat surprising speech in March 2016, U.S.

Why Some Homes Get Burgled and Others Don't

March 29, 2016
It could have as much to do with geography as curb appeal

Los Angeles is a city that was built for crime. According to architecture writer Geoff Manaugh’s new book, A Burglar’s Guide to the City, its urban form deserves at least part of the blame for the larceny inflicted upon us. In fact, the sprawl gave rise to what Manaugh calls an entirely different kind of policing: from helicopters. We talked to him about buildings, burglars, and bank robbers.

Certain parts of L.A. are more prone to burglary simply because of their architecture and design. Manaugh says cookie-cutter suburban development is a prime target.

Los Angeles's Four Level Interchange: A History of Cities in 50 Buildings

April 13, 2015
Planned as ‘a landmark of beauty and pride for the entire city’, the Stack was the first of its kind, helping to create LA as a freeway metropolis and condemning its residents to largely car-dependent lives

The most famous – and most infamous – buildings in Los Angeles aren’t buildings. No one lives or works in them, but they have had an extraordinary impact on the city, its people, and the world as a whole. LA’s most important buildings are its freeways, and the most iconic piece of this vast network is the Four Level Interchange: an elegant vertical boating knot of freeways and ramps just outside downtown.

Could LA survive without its freeways? My six-hour vision of a carless future

January 27, 2015
Nate Berg reports direct from the middle lane of Route 101, one of America’s busiest freeways, as it undergoes a rare session of ‘swarm maintenance’

Sitting on a Los Angeles freeway – not in a traffic jam but, literally, sitting cross-legged in the middle lane of one of the busiest freeways in the United States – is a contrary infrastructural experience.

This is a space passed over by more than 125,000 cars a day, most speeding through at 60, 70 or 80 miles an hour. At a speed of zero, there’s a cognitive dissonance created by the frozen freeway’s stillness. It feels like visiting the moon, a place you know is real but never thought you’d see firsthand.