June 2011. Proposal for the adaptive re-use of left over spaces inside Italian highway interchanges.

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The Field Guide is a short thesis, however it is designed to function in combination with several other documents, (The Entropic Landscapes Series, A4 Archipelago Maps and Pamphlet Guides) which together represent a proposal for the adaptive re-use of disused space within the interchanges of the Italian highway network.

But it is rather more than that, because although the particular proposal focuses on a stretch of A4 autostrada between Bergamo and Verona, it is in fact a model that might easily apply to any stretch of high-speed road –from the Motorways of Britain to the Guodao of Beijing, from France’s Autoroute to Fort Lauderdale’s Interstate Freeway. The reason for this is that the velocity of the automobile is international, as are the spatial signatures it generates as it crosses any landscape – the same graceful curves, the same sloping banks of earth and fantastic spans in white concrete.

The project takes 15 interchanges across 500km of Italian Autostrada and subjects them to a rigourous spatial, cultural and social analysis. It proposes new ways of using them – but most of all a new way of thinking about them, and in collaboration with this thesis it plays on their histories and futures, both real and imagined, through images, maps and drawings. The Field Guide demonstrates how socio-political, economic and spacio-temporal worldviews have changed through the centuries, and how they have now evolved to create environments that are no longer able to be categorised as either “natural” or “technological”.
In this way, the Field Guide is a simultaneous history & handbook – for the promotion of what might be called an “urban nature”. As a format, it takes inspiration from work that is plain in form but rich in idea – Ballard’s Concrete Island, Archizoom’s No-Stop City & Heizer’s simple trenches in the desert. As a guide, it is of course time-based & disposable – falling somewhere between Pevsner and a car manual. Most of all it is a conceptual framework that rejects the nature/technology dichotomy and, by comparing the city wall to the high-speed road, proposes that an inversion has occurred between the wilderness and the urban. Today the wild can only exist outside of our control, in the invisible spaces of the highway turnpike.

Jack Self

Above: The landscapes within and without the A4 Highway Interchange at Brescia Centro.