The Overlooked Beauty of the American Freeway

The constant criticism of America's freeways makes it difficult to appreciate this infrastructure as important economic and cultural artifacts and a wonderful way to see the country.
September 9, 2013, 7am PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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Rhett Sutphin

"Freeways, particularly urban freeways, have had a bad press for several decades now.  They are accused of despoiling scenery, destroying habitat and causing urban sprawl," writes Robert Bruegmann, professor emeritus of Art history, Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Still, there is no better way to get a good view of the larger features of the American landscape or cityscape than looking through the windshield of an automobile rolling along a freeway at 65 miles per hour...  There has also been a remarkable surge of interest in America’s parkways, from the earliest parkways like the Bronx River Parkway in Westchester County New York, started in 1907, to parkways at the end of the parkway era in the years immediately before and after World War II when they gradually became more like freeways, for example the Arroyo Seco Parkway in Los Angeles, or the later segments of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, the Taconic Parkway in New York State or the George Washington Parkway outside Washington...  Even the urban freeway, target of the most vociferous criticism, offers interesting perspectives for those willing to look."

Bruegmann includes 15 annotated images of some of the most scenic, memorable, and embattled freeways in the country.

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Published on Sunday, September 8, 2013 in New Geography
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