'The archaeologists of some future age will study the freeway to understand who we were.' David Brodsly
The Lost Highway
We started out with the Autobahn. Concrete, schnitzel, ghostdrivers and Krautrock. Ballard, Can and Kraftwerk, segueing into Tom Waits, Johnny Cash, Don DeLillo and even more Johnny Cash as we rode the US Interstate system, driving through California, Nevada and Arizona. LA, Barstow, Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Quartzsite and on to Palm Springs.
With this year's study of the Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (STRAHNET), Inter 1 began a multi-year exploration into the architectural possibilities of land-, sea- and air-based networks. The 'Lost Highway' was an apt place to start. The Interstate ties together every aspect of American life through its tributaries and interchanges, but is also obsolete, dysfunctional and – in parts – just plain broke. To understand such a complicated system we embarked on a strenuous research project, mapping, drawing infographics, compiling information on highway culture, viewing 70s road movies and road-testing a number of experiments, methodologies and techniques. In the US students counted French Fries, rode in RVs, slept in the desert, ate barbecue and interviewed a cast of miscreants in an attempt to understand the Interstate, an entity that – in DeLillo's memorable words – laid America 'out flat as birdshit on a Buick.'
Students were tasked with designing a 'drive-thru' and studied optimisation, individuation and dysfunctionalism – from 'anti-social' practices at truck stops to the informal domesticity of RVing retirees, strip malls, garages, strip clubs, saloons and highway hypnosis. The programme of drive-thru served as an architectural platform for testing the spatial, temporal, social, economic and political implications of these varied phenomena, and finding ways of occupying the highway's unloved residual spaces. Inter 1 is dedicated to exploring the potentials of a new type of research- based design studio. Next year – Rotterdam, New Orleans, Memphis and the mighty Mississippi.