The Aesthetic Condition of the Urban Freeway

“I foresee that roads will soon be architecture too...great architecture” -Frank Lloyd Wright

I've always been fascinated by freeways, so I guess it was only natural that they became the subject of the Professional Report that I wrote while a graduate student in the community and Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin. Originally, my plan was to make some modifications and additions to this report and try to publish it. However, other things (i.e. life) got in the way and it never happened. So I've "published" my work here on my website instead.

Aside from making a few minor text and graphics changes and adding a handful of new updates [in italics], this is the report as it was submitted in December of 1999. Now that I've finally put it online I hope to update it more frequently.

This report explores the oftentimes ugly and destructive nature of the urban limited-access highway, surveys techniques designed to improve its appearance and its relationship to the surrounding community, and attempts to uncover the fundamental issues behind its design. This report begins by describing the oftentimes adversarial qualities of the urban freeway upon the cities and citizens it serves; the effect of the highway is considered from the standpoint of both the resident living near the freeway as well as the motorist driving along the freeway. A history of the highway aesthetics movement is provided, and techniques aimed at improving the aesthetic quality of the urban freeway and more effectively integrating it into the surrounding urban environment are catalogued. An extensive investigation of the I-35 extension in Duluth, Minnesota is presented as a case study which encapsulates the issues and dynamics of the highway aesthetics movement. This report concludes that the opportunities for sensitive highway design are abundant, but that an entirely new way of thinking about the urban freeway is required before it can truly become a well-designed and integral part of the urban environment.

Table Of Contents

Chapter One: The Effect of the Freeway on the Urban Environment
Chapter Two: The History of Highway Aesthetics
Chapter Three: Strategies (Part 1)
Chapter Three: Strategies (Part 2)
Chapter Four: The Duluth, Minnesota Story
Chapter Five: Three Keys to Progress

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