According to pollsters, the UK 2010 general election was swung by the votes of Motorway Man and Motorway Woman. These offspring of Soccer Mom and Mondeo Man, we are told, live near a motorway junction and drive to work at an office near another motorway junction. Young, healthy and childless, they have little contact with place, community or any of those other things urbanism usually expects.
Our question this year was how this lonely, boring, decoupled, placeless landscape might be a testing ground for our deepest-held architectural truths. Might these apparently negative characteristics contain more positive possibilities?
For example, does the idea of community exist at a place like Beaconsfield Service Station? Perhaps in the large numbers of Eastern European lorry drivers engaged in global logistics or the businessmen plugging their printers into power sockets at Starbucks or the schoolkids hanging out there after class.
The unit examined the relationship between the town of Beaconsfield and the service station. Through fieldwork and close reading as well as speculative proposals, scenarios were developed in which programmes and iconographies forged new connections between apparently disparate conditions.
Design experiments developed a toolkit for exploring architecture as a cultural and communicative act. Genre-bending exercises remade canonical architecture drawings in multiple ways: John Hejduk as Persian inlay, Walking City as Piranesian etching, Chernikov as Pop Art and so on. Explorations of the ways in which architectural languages communicate complex cultural issues were made with large-scale models.
The projects find possibilities to understand a contemporary landscape through an architectural lens. They form new kinds of vernaculars for a networked world whose forces erode traditional conceptions of place. Here, architecture examines its role as a cultural device and a social proposition in an attempt to understand the narrative of Motorway Man and Woman.