Currently, the Mega-Infrastructure of Los Angeles is relentless, unyielding, inflexible, and static. The cars that take up the super highways crawl from exit to exit and, in a sense, do all of the work.
Freeways are also always a means to an end. But it seems to me that with so much money, resources, and space committed, we can dig deeper into what kind of impact they can have on our lives rather than just the singular goal of getting from point A to point B.
Can accessibility become program? Can programs facilitate accessibility? Does accessibility even have to be all that important with the injection of program?
There isn’t a lot of information out there regarding these ideas, but Herzog & de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road parking structure comes closest. It is a mix-use parking structure facilitated by shifting, scaling, and deforming structures typically found in a typical parking structure. Each floor is landscaped, insinuating that each floor can act as the ground plane no matter how high above the ground they actually are.
We are already surrounded by cars. How can we co-exist with them more fluidly? Freeways are seen as scars and agents of separation. How do we change that?
This made me think of the idea of public space. Public space is continuously being redefined as the areas we typically think are public spaces become commercialized and lose their democracy. Pershing Square is a carefully manicured landscape that is empty aside from a couple hours during lunch. City Walk is a collage of spectacles with overpriced restaurants and movie theaters.
It’s evident that we should start to rethink what public space is. There needs to be a delicate balance of accessibility, deliberate programs, and impromptu events. I think that freeways have the potential to be the last frontier of proper public space. Accessibility to LA freeways is not an issue. All you need is a car which in LA is not a limiting factor, as about 85% of households in LA have a car. Every one on the freeway has more or less equal “ownership” of area, the footprint of their cars. There are laws that apply to every car that evens the playing field in terms of mobility regardless of class and the level of automobile available for them.
Exhibition Road in London approaches this concept, transforming the busy, half-mile road into a clutter-free shared street with cars, pedestrians, and cyclists attentively navigating through the space without the need for an excessive amount of street signs and traffic signals. Transportation is reprogrammed into something that requires constant active and passive interaction with the people around you. It turns out that giving people more freedom and democracy in their public space actually helps, reducing traffic by 30% and decreasing the number of accidents.
In light of the concepts of fringe-to-core and dense sprawl, programming infrastructure can take lessons from the dense, diverse, and accessible core. As the core is being squeezed by the fringe, can the core expand or relieve itself within programmed infrastructure? Could this movement into infrastructure take pressure off dense sprawl areas, allowing for more breathing room for the positive aspects of density and sprawl to emerge while eliminating the negative aspects? Can infrastructure programs flood over onto surface level streets, possibly dead spaces, to help mitigate the scarring and segregating effects of Mega-Infrastructure?