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bailey whisler │ master of architecture thesis


View from the Road: Communicating the History of Route 66 through Mobile Perception A thesis submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Cincinnati in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture in the School of Architecture and Interior Design of the College of Art, Architecture, and Planning by Bailey E. Whisler B.A. in Architecture, Clemson University, June 2010 Committee Chair: Michael McInturf, M.ARCH Committe Member: Aarati Kanekar, PhD

abstract Within the United States, buildings and structures constructed less than 100 years ago have deteriorated, eliminating artifacts that enable current generations to investigate and understand the culture from previous time periods. The American fascination with cars cultivated an accelerated quest for speed in getting from one place to another, ultimately causing buildings to be built that were not made to last. Relatively few structures remain, but rather personal stories that survive until today to explain the rise, boom, and fall of Route 66. This roadway serves as an American cultural icon, only in use for several decades, but today falling into ruin. And as we speed along highways and freeways, we become numb to our surroundings, only stopping for shocking or awe-inspiring images. As our society becomes increasingly dependent upon technology and travelling quickly from place to place, it is rare that we take the time to recognize and comprehend space and place while in motion. This thesis examines the construction of a historical narrative within the context of a mobile environment along Route 66. Using the broader context of Missouri as a site, it analyzes the role that movement has on architectural perception through a series of eleven rest stops using the techniques of rhythm, repetition, sequentiality, and montage in order to communicate a history through the juxtapositions of people in place. iv

3 16 30 42 54 68 80 88 94

table of contents abstract narrative narrative + film + montage view from the road america’s main street site : sites : system the roadside rest stop proposal bibliography

illustrations + figures 6-7 12-13 14 20 22 26-27 28 30-31 34 36-37 38-39 40 44-45 47 49 50-51 52 54 57-58 60 62-63 64-65 66 67-68


“Hit the Mother Road�, Scott, Route 66: The Road and its People (Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 153-154. currently unknown. Author. Author. Scott, Route 66: The Road and its People (Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 44-45. Author. Author. currently unknown. Author. Scott, Route 66: The Road and its People (Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 98. Author. Author. Author. currently unknown. Scott, Route 66: The Road and its People (Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 100. Author. Author. Author. Author. Author. Scott, Route 66: The Road and its People (Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 178. Google Earth. Author.

68-79 80

82 84-85 90-99


Author. Base images from Google Earth. “A Photo Essay Documents A Dying Tradition: Roadside Rest Stops�, Ibid. Author. Author.

All classes, all human groups, have their narratives, enjoyment of which is very often shared by men with different, even opposing, cultural backgrounds. Barthes, 251


“The ceiling is this color blue, like the sky. It’s got a certain tint to it. Flies won’t land on it. They’re allergic to that. The sidewalls white with a litle bit of peach in it. The seats: green like you’re sitting in an area where there’s green bushes. The floor is as much like dirt as possible and make it look as much like a picnic as you possible can. It stimulates the appetite and people enjoy it.”

sheldon “red” chaney 15



“….narrative is present in myth, legend, fable, tale, novella, epic, history, tragedy, drama, comedy, mime, painting, stained-glass windows, cinema, comics, news item, conversation….narrative is present is every age, in every place, in every society…”¹ There exists in the world an infinite number of narratives. Narratives of war. Narratives of travel. Narratives of life. Narratives of death. They exist because there are narrators to tell and translate these stories to future generations. Each story-teller injects their own memory and knowledge of experience into their stories, and as these are passed down, they evolve into richer stories either documented or unfortunately forgotten. Stories are only temporary; they exist in a specific part of time and with each retelling, they morph into new stories that combine, delete, memorialize, or dramatize the past. The tradition of oral storytelling originated with simple chants as people worked, incorporating stories, poetry, music, and dance. Also commonly told amongst friends while sitting on the front porch or while taking a break, stories explained previous generations and were the memories from a time when there was no documentation. For much of the area surrounding Route 66, there are limited records and images of what once existed. And unfortunately, most of these 17

structures, towns, and cities have vanished, leaving the written and oral word as the only way of describing the history along the road. Pierre Nora cites history as the method by which “hopelessly forgetful socieities, propelled by change, organize the past... it is the reconstruction, incomplete, of what is no longer, a representation of the past.”2 It is history that connects temporal conditions and relations between things; it continually rewrites itself. It is a highly subjective view of what happened in the past; one cannot tell a complete story of the past including every detail possible; instead, only the details that suit it are included. Organizing these details and fragments, the author is able to communicate a story or account of an event or time period.

grand narrative: from the French ‘grand recit’, recit meaning account and ‘grand recit’ referring to a story or representation used to give an explanatory or justificatory account of a society or period narratology: studying how the author’s ordering of time and space in narrative forms constitutes one of the primary ways we construct meaning

NARRATIVE; NARRATIF; NARRATOLOGY The word narrative originated from the Middle French word narratif, meaning ‘to recount’ and the root meaning ‘to know’. It refers to a part of a text, describing a story as it is supposed to have taken place according to the storyteller’s memory. Structuralist and post-structuralist theory define narrative as a representation of a history, biography, process, in which a sequence of events is constructed into a story in accordance with a particular ideology. One narrative, combined with others into a grand narrative, begins to show relationships, cultural development, even succession into social systems. Also called a meta-narrative or grand narrative, this combined group of narratives with interconnections and similarities become a history. Common threads as told by various sources become the themes and recognizable constructions that inform the reader of the meta and micro-narratives and structures present within an overall writing or story that give an account of a society or period. Using literature as the most commonly studied form of narrative, the field of narratology examines and studies the actual narrative and narrative structure in order to see how they affect the perception the reader has of both cultural artifacts and the world around them. Critics such as Peter Brooks, Roland Barthes, and Algirdas Greimas studied the various influences that narrative has on 18

1_analepsis: flashback 2_prolepsis: flashforward 3_diegesis: entire fictional created world 4_story: actual chronology of events 5_discourse: manipulation of story in the presentation of narrative; includes all material the author adds to the story, like metaphors, similes, etc. 6_eye-line shot: a sequence of two shots, the first of the character gazing at something, and the second of the object being looked at 7_frame narrative: story within a story 8_long shot: images appear blurry or recognizable in a shot from far away

the reader and audience. This also manifests itself within various films, discussed in the next chapter. Examining film and its connection between space and narrative, Barthes defines several terms3 that facilitate narrative, both written and aesthetic. Clearly articulating a narrative can successfully communicate a history to a reader. There are two processes used by writers: articulation, or that which produces units and/or form and integration, that which produces meaning. Articulation does not become rich without integration and integration cannot exist without articulation. There are two ways in which articulation generates the form of a narrative: stretching signs over the length of the story as well as inserting additional expansions into these stretches, essentially creating both a sense of pressure and then release. These areas of deviation from a story were studied by Charles Bally, who concluded that embedding sequences within sequences and stretching others as points where additional sequences are added creates a language of embedding and enveloping, where “each part of the narrative radiates in several directions at once.�4 One method of this distortion is suspense - playing with the order and rhythm of the narrative, leaving one sequence open for a longer amount of time while another’s beginning is delayed. This invites the reader into the story, wanting more, not sure when the next event will pop up. These discontinuous elements create a completely new meaning when juxtaposed with each other, similar to montage, discussed in the next chapter. TECHNIQUES OF DELIVERY The way in which a narrative is told differentiates the narrator, author, and reader. It is the author who understands the conventions and rules used to deliver a narrative, but often it is the narrator who ultimately presents the exciting and best stories. The author is familiar with rules of recitation and signs of narrative, and the narrator uses these to craft characters and exciting sequences of events that capture the attention of the reader. This thesis focuses on how a historical narrative can be structured and communicated using the techniques of rhythm, repetition, sequentiality and 19

text + sentence + paragraph + chapter + novel


emphasizing meaning and theme

repetition rhythm sequentiality montage

a patterned repetition of a motif, formal elements, etc. at regular or irregular intervals in the same or modified form movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat, accent, or the like the effect produced in a play, film, novel, etc. by the combination or arrangement of formal elements, as length of scenes,speech and description, timing, or recurrent themes to create movement, tension, and emotional value in the development of the plot fabula + sjuzhet: chronological sequence of events in a narrative + the representation of those events events chronology structure temporal space manipulating perception of time juxtaposing images by editing film

analytique, bernard tschumi parc de la villette, points, lines, surfaces 22

montage. The relationship between narrative structure, perceptual experience and representation is most relevant to architecture. 1_Repetition Repetition plays a major role in the telling of a narrative. With it, the audience is able to recognize patterns developing that allow them to orient themselves within the overall story. There are two strategies of using repetition: either repeating the same idea or using several accounts of one event to reconstruct what happened at that event. Replication – copying or adapting a particular artistic style or method based on time and place - has been utilized in order to strengthen an argument or idea within architecture. A single element or entire sequence can be repeated, creating an overall message through sameness and calculated variation. Bernard Tschumi’s follies in Parc de la Villette formally use the idea of variation on a theme in order to create event within the surrounding city of Paris. The three different ordering systemspoints, lines, surfaces-created a grid upon which the follies, pedestrian and activities lines, and large playing fields were located. Each folly measures 10x10x10, yet no two are completely alike. The repetition of the red surfaces and consistent dimensions emphasize contrast and difference. The interplay of theme and variation allows the park to read symbolically and structurally, permitting maximum programmatic flexibility and invention. Tschumi’s basic kit of parts allows each space to be transformed or elaborated according to specific programmatic needs.5 It is understanding a basic set of rules that allows the users of the park to become familiar with each folly.

lenticular screens: composed of magnifying lenses, which, when arrayed and viewed from different angles, magnify different images.

2_Rhythm Repetition can be a part of rhythm, defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. It is an alternation of elements or movements over time, of which these can be simple, complex or a combination of both, creating ordered complexity or complex order. Diller + Scofidio’s installation Travelogues seeks to tell a narrative through a series of thirty-eight lenticular screens in a corridor 23

diagram, diller + scofidio travelogues, travel narrative through multiple images

linking the arrival gates with the passport control area in John Kennedy Airport. As travelers walk past the succession of screens in the one-directional corridor, they perceive short periods of animation, creating a real-time moving-picture narrative. The commonalities of picture frames and repeated images begin to tell a whole story as one walks towards customs, a preview of the customs gate ahead. Each screen displays a two second video of travelers going through security, comprised of layered images of film clips, large-format transparencies, and medical X-rays that related to the experience of four travelers getting their luggage screened. The succession of screens builds a sequence of micro-movies; the spaces between screens form time lapses. Travelogues deals with narrative in a way that transforms the passive viewer into an active interpreter of a moving-picture narrative that provides only bits of information within the rhythm of the walk towards customs. These bits can be nostalgic, sometimes surprising, humorous, and mysterious depending on the angle and location of the viewer. 3_Sequence A sequence is a “nameable� set of functions or actions that open 24

and close, allowing the reader to grasp the entirety of the writing as a whole. Sequence can be defined as a small group of functions organized into a series of relays that come together in order to explain or tell a narrative. These set of functions can also be described as nuclei upon which the narrative is built. Delving into the nuclei further, each part of the set of functions has alternate meanings. Several sequences together can create a new unit or extensive sequence. And while a sequence has a definite opening and closing point, another sequence can open before the previous one closes, due to a remaining actantial6 relation. Bringing a sequence to life depends not only on the succession of the parts, but in the logic that is exposed, risked, and satisfied. A sequence is not merely an observation of daily life; it is the varied actions of man that do not repeat that compose certain sequences that together form the narrative. The sequence of narrative causes readers to constantly thinking about what came before them as well as contemplating what might be ahead. Repeating a similar idea or theme reminds the viewer of the writer’s point. Controlling what a viewer is seeing and at what pace they are seeing can be done through compression and extension, also known as stretching. Stretching depends less on the number of words and more on the pace that the text imposes on the reader. NARRATIVE ARCHITECTURE Employing these four techniques within architecture is not always a one to one relationship. Narrative can be used to structure movement and tie that movement to a space. In other words, how a narrative is told is based largely on how a user moves through a space and how that movement is influenced by the space. In this way, narrative imitates stage and film direction, with space choreographing the moves of the narrative-dance and the architect taking the role of the choreographer. Constructing a space “in pursuit of meaning rather than performance, [narrative] frames an architecture that takes account of human experiences and the need to shape them into stories. It 25

starts and ends with how people interact first and foremost with their environment, and in the process of responding to it and yielding to it, map their experiences in a mental space that architects need to understand...”7 The architecture itself is no longer performing or necessarily functioning at a scientifically measurable level; but rather at an experiential level. This is expanded to the city scale as well. Coates writes that narrative architecture needs to incorporate a number of characteristics, which fall under the four techniques of delivery previously defined:8 Repetition: - incorporation of staged non-architectural archetypes that challenge the architectural whole - a resonant ready-made construct imported from an exotic time or place Sequentiality - emphatic use of spatial language - of enclosure, openness, and focus Montage - applied geology or naturalistic form that softens the architectural rational. - assemblage of independent functional entities that de-contextualise one another - articulation and distortion of programme that encourages unexpected activity or misuse Sophia Psarra argues that “architecture orders experience through space-time relationships that interface the realm of the conceptual and the world of the senses, away from the traditional binary model of abstract and physical.”9 Using examples of narrative in cultural buildings and museums, Psarra investigates how the relationship between the body and ordered space can communicate a story. And we are experiencing a time when tourists will travel a great distance in order to experience history. Preserving “local” heritage has become “en vogue” - clients are interested in restoring 26

a place to its original look and feel. Yet this type of replication and duplication architecturally is not the most successful. The Disneylike structures focus mainly on form and ornamentation in order to describe other time periods and cultures. However, by exploring the sequence and experience of space, architecture cannot only reference formally but also experientially what the past was like. This thesis does not assume that by merely looking at a building, a user can understand the cultural influences that have shaped the making and design of space, but that “by being a realization of the underlying structures of society, [the building] is the means ‘by which the society as an abstract structure is realized in space-time and then reproduced’.”10 Through spatial relationships and visual perception, the effect of a building’s layout and sequence is often stronger than mere replication of form.

1. Barthes, “Structural Analysis of Narratives,” 251. 2. Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les lieux de Memoire,” 7-24. 3. Barthes, “Structural Analysis of Narratives,” 251-295. 4. Ibid, 289. 5. Tschumi, Event Cities 2, 44-60. 6. Algirdas Julien Greimas is credited with the creation of the actantial model in 1996 relating to narratology. An actant is an integral structural element (such as a hero, helper, sender, etc.) upon which a narrative is built. It can also describe opposing characters like a hero and villain, which creates obstacles within the narrative. It is the minimum unit of a story, adding function rather than content. 7. Coates, Narrative Architecture, 11. 8. Coates, Narrative Architecture, 175-176. 9. Psarra, Architecture and Narrative: the formation of space and cultural meaning, 2. 10. Source here.



“I moved here in March, 1929. I was with my parents then, and we come from Cabool. My brother had come up here. We made baskets and chairs and things like that and sold them on the highway. He said it would be better up here to sell our things. We had a shop. Other people learned the trade. There were several shops.�

amy thompson, basket maker


2_narrative + film + montage


Sergei Eisenstein, a Soviet Russian filmmaker known as one of the most important figures in the history of cinema, wrote that the two essential conditions of film as a medium are sequentiality and montage. Referred to as the Father of Montage, Eisenstein created a technique of editing to conjure emotion amongst the audience. He achieved this by taking the thousands of images for the film and putting them together, paying special attention to rhythm and sequencing of action. The essence of montage comes from placing the images next to each other in a specific order, rather than presenting in the sequence they were shot. Eisenstein writes, “In themselves, the pictures, the phases, the elements of the whole are... indecipherable. The blow is struck only when the elements are juxtaposed in a sequential image.”1 This can be distilled into a simple mathematical formula: 1 + 1 = 3. Placing the images side by side results in a relationship not previously thought of or imagined. The Battleship Potemkin, one of Eisenstein’s works, evolved from an earlier idea of a film that celebrated the unsuccessful 1905 Russian Revolution. As he toured the Soviet Union visiting the various sites for shooting his film, he came to Odessa and decided to focus on only one event of the Revolution: a mutiny by a battleship’s crew and the massacre of civilians that followed. Eisenstein styled 31

Let’s go and talk them out of it.

text shot





mother + boy






carriage death





compression + expansion

the entire film, from the arrangement of hammocks in the opening scenes to the inner workings of the battleship shown. The silent film contains five acts - 1_Men and Maggots, 2_Drama on the deck, 3_A Dead Man Calls for Justice, 4_The Odessa Staircase, 5_The Rendez-Vous with a Squadron. While its purpose was to serve as a propoganda film, Eisenstein’s test of montage resulted in compelling images that stirred the emotions of all viewers at the time and even today. Close up images of characters’ faces clearly show emotion, but then the camera jumps back to give an overall panoramic view of the space, creating a back and forth of the scenery and emotions. These flashbacks and flash forwards convey the frenetic feel of the scene. Over 1300 shots were taken for the film, and then spliced together to form dynamic scenes. Using the gaze of a character in one image and following it with another image where the gaze is used in a different way result in powerful emotional responses. In one shot, the commanding officer looks down amongst all of the sailors and in the next, the sailors examine the meat covered in maggots. These subtle shifts in the seer and seen create new, interpretational messages that the viewer experiences throughout the film. Perhaps the most well-known montage scene of the movie 32

Don’t shoot!


My boy is very ill.

The Cossacks.












and of film theory in general is the Odessa steps scene, where the cavalry follows the citizens down the stairs, continuously shooting them. Eisenstein’s play with close up, horrified faces with the overall image of the stairs causes the viewer to feel as if they are a part of the scene, gasping for fear that the innocent people might by shot. Overall, there are 154 point of view changes throughout the seven minute scene, switching from images of the stairs to close up images of faces. The first sequence shown is a mother and child running down the stairs. The boy gets shot and calls out for his mother who has continued running. Upon realizing that her son is calling, a flash of her distraught face conveys horror. As she looks to the left back towards her son, the next image shows him looking to the right down towards her. This combination of gazing creates a stronger bond between the mother and son. The second sequence is of a mother and child as well, but the child is in a stroller. As the mother is shot, the stroller is pushed down the stairs, rolling amongst all of the other citizens fleeing the cavalry. During this sequence, shots of three other characters portray fear as the baby bounces down the stair.2 While Eisenstein’s method of cutting and juxtaposing images may not seem a novel idea in today’s field of film and cinema, it 33

made quite a statement at the time. In fact, the way we view architecture today is not unlike the idea of montage according to Eisenstein. Driving through cities or countryside, shifts in viewpoints from the car create unexpected juxtapositions, hiding and revealing different buildings. What a driver or rider sees from a moving vehicle becomes a basic outline of the architecture; perception is flattened. The overlapping of styles creates an interesting mixture of buildings that, when seen at such a rapid pace, blend together, creating a blurry image of the passing landscape. It is impossible to even comprehend the totality of what one is looking at completely upon first glance. Jonathan Jones a scientist at the Applied Visual Research Unit at the Institute of Behavioural Sciences at Derby University writes: The most interesting thing that the research has so far confirmed is that it is impossible to take in the whole of a painting at once. There is no such thing as the totalising gaze- the look that comprehends everything - because the nature of visual perception is momentary, partial, and fragmentary. Our visual field is very small and precise. Look at someone’s face and you are aware of their surroundings only as blurred secondary information....Like a film camera wielded by a Soviet montage director, you take in the world in a series of glances.3 Michel de Certeau writes that we comprehend our surroundings through series of glances, similar to the frames mentioned in Eisenstein’s writings.4 Tschumi also describes frames through Parc de la Villette, defining frame as each of the segments of the sequence. In this case, each “frame” defines a garden. Each can exist on its own as a single piece of work, but when combined, the experience becomes much richer. He follows Eisenstein’s thinking almost verbatim when he writes “the framing principle permits the arrangement of each part of the sequence since, as with the cinegrams of film, each frame can be mixed, combined, superimposed, infinitely...the content of each frame can be shown from above or from below...”5 Tschumi poses the question ‘Why can’t architecture 34

or landscape work with rearranging the sequence of frames?’6 and attempts this in Parc de la Villette when an intersecting line of trees divides the view and experience of two gardens. FRAGMENTS, GAPS, SITE Eisenstein’s statement about how the meaning or impact of images comes across stronger when they are juxtaposed with one another, relates to Jonathan Hill’s writings about montage. Hill writes that montage consists of three main elements: fragments, gaps, and site. Fragments are disparate elements that when placed together shock people into new recognitions and understandings. While Hill writes about this shock and after shock idea, it is when he ties together architecture and habitual experiences that the topic becomes especially intriguing. In these scenarios, the fragments are just as important as the gaps between them. The gaps do not serve as shocking or surprising elements in the sequence, but rather have a gradual influence on the user over time. This pattern of solid and void create a rhythm that the user can then interpret into a narrative. These gaps indicate that something is missing, signifying incompletion and encouraging the user to complete the montage.7 He further divides these gaps into three types: spatial, sensual, and semantic. The sensual and semantic gaps are defined respectively as juxtapositions of the senses and when certain fragments of a building are absent or undermined. These two types deal more with ephemeral qualities of narrative, but spatial gaps are the ones that will be discussed in the thesis. Examining the effects of figure-ground in elevation and perspective, not only in plan, can become an experience for the user that then informs them of what they are looking at and/or experiencing. Spatial gaps are explored in the work of many artists - Derrida, Eisenman, Baldessari, Mies van der Rohe, and Moholy-Nagy. Each view gaps slightly differently - Derrida and Eisenman as a physical gap in material, Baldessari as absence of the original meaning, Mies as a way to bring users together, and Moholy-Nagy as a thing constructed using elements like structural patterns, 35

Mies van der Rohe, Resor House

Resor House: Mies’ unbuilt work, rendered using three perspectives from inside of the main bedroom, erasing the interior and showcasing the exterior materials of the house

close-ups, and isolated figures. When designing and describing the Resor House, Mies constructed several drawings of the views from the house up and down the river. Using ink, black and white photography, famous paintings, and wood veneer, Mies begins to depict the view, using two-dimensional planes as walls and visual impediments. It flattens the perspective, but retains a spatial quality by overlapping the planes. Montage can not only be applied to the sequence of spaces that the user moves through, but also to the arrangement of program within a building. Using Eisenstein and Hill’s definitions of montage, programmatic relationships based on montage will yield greater interest between users of the space as well as creating moments within the architecture where function and form collide. This is seen in the programmatic organization of Tschumi’s buildings such as the National Library of France where he proposed a running track above a library. The program for the building reflected and encouraged circuits and the movement of scholars, books, and visitors. These two programs together were to create an event rather than a static monument. Similar to the library, Tschumi repeatedly proposes programmatic relationships such as pole-vaulting in the chapel, bicy36

cling in the laundromat, sky-diving in the elevator shaft. He suggests that “conventional organizations of spaces could be matched to the most surrealistically absurd sets of activities.”8 When juxtaposed together, new relationships occur and the user begins to infer more about the spaces. The experience of being in one of these spaces and seeing this “absurd” activity taking place infuses a different feeling into the space. Both the physical and visual relationships create spaces that relate to each other sectionally. While the architect may begin with one idea of montage occuring in a building or structure, it is ultimately the user that focuses on different detail, independence and juxtaposition of the parts, and discontinuous structure, leaving no single interpretation. What may shock or discomfort one person may bring joy or comfort to another. Because shock has become such a large part of our society today, the goal of the architectural project is to create unexpected juxtapositions of space and material that cause wonder and curiousity about the building and the message behind it. The building can then be explored piece by piece over time.

1. Eisenstein, Montage and Architecture, 128. 2. Sergei Eisenstein, The Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein (1925; Moscow: Kino.), DVD. 3. Jonathan Jones quoted in Hill, Actions of Architecture: architects and creative users, 114. 4. de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 91-111. 5. Tschumi, Event Cities 2, 54. 6. Ibid, 55. 7. Hill, Actions of Architecture: architects and creative users, 7-88. 8. Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, 54.


“The older I grow and the longer I look at landscapes and seek to understand them, the more convinced I am that their beauty is not simply an aspect but their very essence and that their beauty derives from the human presence.� Jackson, xxxi

john’s modern cabins “During the war you could donate any kind of a place - even chicken houses - for people to live in. There were that many people working at Fort Wood. There was all kinds of cabins around here. They would just put up anything that people could live in.”



3_view from the road


Landscape refers to a variety of scales, variety of views, variety of places, and variety of terrain. The original definition of landscape referred to a portion of the land that the eye can comprehend at a glance. It did not mean the view itself; it referred to the artist’s interpretation of what he/she saw. To look out at and observe the landscape means nothing; to interpret it and to understand what happened or is happening on the landscape is really to comprehend the landscape. Understanding the human activity that has occurred within a place is what gives a landscape meaning. And while the geology can change within a landscape, the surroundings ground a place within the context. Landscape is different than place; place is “something embued with significance arising from human psychological and behavioral activity.”1 The actual construction of a landscape image includes an elusive horizon that one attempts to constantly grasp while traveling along a path. The horizon does not move, but changes as we move through the landscape; it “quite apathetically rests on the ground devouring everything that looks like something. One is always crossing the horizon, yet it always remains distant.”2 The permanence of the land contrasts sharply with the transient quality of people moving through and across the landscape, constantly changing their 43

point of view and perspective at various speeds. Paul Virilio writes, “A landscape has no fixed meaning, no privileged vantage point. It is oriented only by the itinerary of the passerby.”3 As the constant, the landscape serves as the place, the constant with which the user can orient themselves. It is the place where we work, live, and play. It is the site of lives and histories and its meaning comes from the common user, not the idealized thoughts of the architect or planner. It is history made visible.4 Many times we refer to the “cultural landscape” of a place, meaning the rituals, habits, and social norms that together form a culture of a geographical location. The practices and daily customs that take place on a piece of land change due to technology and a collision of different land users, ultimately changing the culture of the place, but not the geological landscape. AMERICAN LANDSCAPE The American landscape is difficult to define due to the variety of inhabitants and climactic differences around the country differs from other landscapes around the world. As we use the landscape for various activities, it has become a roadscape, townscape, and cityscape. These “scapes” have evolved parallel to transportation throughout history. With the construction of the railroad in the United States came new towns that hugged the tracks filled with people hoping to succeed. Their temporal settling of areas established the landscape as a place we move through, never that we see as a destination. It is a “random network of pure trajectories whose occasional collisions suggest a possible topography”5; similar to Tschumi’s view on architecture being the place that beholds the event, Virilio argues that the “collisions” that take place are what create a topography within the landscape. How has the American architectural landscape been shaped by the highways and other roads that cut across and through it? Examining the role of infrastructure as it penetrates the geographic landscape, fairly regular patterns of settlement and expansion appear. With the age of the automobile, there became fewer landmarks and more blurriness as one drove at high speeds. The paradox became that people were able to travel farther to landmarks, 44

but the in-between became unnoticed and banal. Little attention was paid to buildings whose purpose it was to blend into the landscape and not to stand out to drivers. And today, when most of our cities are viewed from the vantage point of a car windshield, the pedestrian scale is ignored. Cities must be purviewed by car as they stretch miles and miles, and are built of the same architecture: replicated single family homes. Jackson writes “they are not for the casual 19th century wanderer looking for picturesque architectural glimpses, but they are wonderfully impressive if you are travelling at thirty-five miles per hour.”6 The blurring that occurs as a driver moves down the road “encourage[s] an understanding of architecture as landscape instead of landmark.”7 Prior to the construction of major highways and interstates, cities were viewed mostly vertical, according to J.B. Jackson; the space consisted of towers, roofs, and walls. However, the automobile created a new order of view that was horizontal and vast.8 EXPERIENTIAL LANDSCAPE Amongst the curving paths and winding lines cutting through the stretches and swaths of open land lies uninhabited, banal sites left unexplored and undeveloped. These hardly noticed, blurred landscapes of American infrastructure become experiential landscapes because they are characterized by the mundane and daily experience.9 The repetitive travel of cars by these sites gives them no speciality when viewed amongst the regularity of the American vernacular landscape. Gordon Cullen, urban designer and architect, describes passing through a town as “a journey through pressures and vacuums, a sequence of exposures and enclosures, of constraints and reliefs.”10 An experiential landscape consists of a range of fundamental experiences, including developing a sense of orientation, creating the opportunity for users to be able to identify and attach significance to particular locations, and that the users become aware of an overall sense of containment or coordination. The landscape can then become animated through movement, whether by way of train, plane, or automobile. These dif45







eld º fi




25º field of v iew

of view

of ew


ferent “trajectories” of movement became corridors where new business-owners settled and opened up shop. Amongst these types of transportation, the automobile has taken over as the most detremental to our natural landscape. The 1950s and the passing of the Federal Highway Act in 1956 led to the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways throughout the country. The national landscape was reorganized in the postwar years with the objective of expanding the nation, defense, and movement of troops. Growth of an “unheard-of sort, geometric and without discernible limits.... the United States was about to embark on a period of extraordinary expansion...”11 It is highway construction that led to the complete overhaul of transportation and exploration through the country. People could travel faster, quicker, and farther. What began in the early 1900s as small dirt or gravel paths transformed into a web of roads, railroads and highways by the 1950s and 1960s. They became the symbol of freedom in the United States, combining the destination with the journey, offering endless possibilities. Families began taking roadtrips, using the car for leisure rather than just for day to day travels. The car was romanticized; families, couples, and individuals were marketed to in order to sell this idea of freedom. Billboards and signs became the new landscape. The idea of 46

a “vehicular strip” was invented. Each business along the strip vied for drivers attention; each business was also constantly reinventing itself, “expanding its powers of suggestion and seduction.”12 The marketing of the highways leads to the more contemporary definition of landscape according to Jackson: a composition of man-made or man-modified spaces to serve as infrastructure or background for our collective existence; background can be defined as that which underscores not only our identity and presence but also our history. Today, our “landscape” has very little to do with the original natural landscape and much more to do with how we have manipulated and changed the original geographic forms over time. VIEW FROM THE ROAD Our view is no longer static; it becomes panoramic. We become active participants in a shifting view. Panoramic perception, looking at an entire image or panorama as one is driving through a place at a rapid pace, is defined as a zoomscape. The frame of view is the windshield. As we travel through the landscape, we imagine what is beyond the frame, what might reveal itself and what might remain hidden from view. The zoomscape is informed by anticipation and succession, similar to expansion and contraction in 47

narrative.13 The windshield acts as the mediator between the driver and the environment, allowing “for a range of perceptions within the same glance, from the object in the world to the automotive framing of its view, from the blur of a building wall to the smudge of dirt on the windshield, from the larger organization of the world we are navigating to the workings of machines and passing fancies of mind.”14 The way a person views the landscape of the car is drastically different from viewing at a still position. A driver will be more aware of the roadway ahead of him than of the spaces and buildings on either side. As speed increases, the area that a person notices diminishes. Automotive perception depends on the kinesthetic movement of the head and upper body as a driver responds to different views. Architecture can be read at various speeds, whether it be at the pace of a person walking, running, biking, or driving. Not only is perception about how space is viewed, it is also how one moves through space at different speeds. Schwarzer questions these scales by asking “What does it mean to see architecture not only in on-site encounters, such as walking around or through a building or finding a good vantage point and gazing for a long time? What does it mean to be a viewer who moves at machine velocities and watches through machine constructions of space and time?”15 Diller and Scofidio’s Slow House looks at how a house is approached by car as well as how people begin to move through the space once stopped. The architects chose to try out these experiments in view and perception on a vacation house since it was not a year-round residence; unfortunately the project ran out of money and was never built. The project uses three optical devices of “escape” to and from culture: the car windshield, the television screen, and the picture window. These three devices combined “can be thought of as escape valves into the white noise of vacation spacetime.” Looking specifically at the car windshield, the frame limits the driver from interacting with the rest of the landscape surrounding the car; what is perceived from the moving vehicle is completely different than what is seen at the picture window once inside. The project is described: 48





analytique: Diller + Scofidio Slow House, passage from artifice to nature 49

“The house deforms the model of classical perspective. Rather, the split passage is decisively anti-perspectival, with no direct visual axes, only constantly changing optical tangents splintering from the curve. As the axis of vision is bent, the formerly centered, unified subject in control of his world is teased off center, off balance. The house is a mechanism of arousal, eliciting an optical desire and feeding it, slowly. The only direct view is at the end of the one hundred foot long wall, through the picture window, toward the horizon.”16 This project deals with two speeds of perception. With a four foot front facade and curving facades that reveal the building upon approaching, the house was designed to be seen from the vehicle as it slowed to a stop in front of the door. Once inside, a clear vantage point is never present; a screen at the end of the hallway projects what can be seen beyond. Virilio coined the term dromoscopy, combining Greek for “road” and “field of view”. It is imagining that one is leaping into a perspective of an image of a place, doing more than just viewing architecture as a static image. By using the perspective as an image that is to be engaged with, the active user is involved in the event of the space portrayed by the static image. Once inside of the image, the user strives to reach another image or vantage point where the story can be continued. The viewer is always pursuing the distant horizon, never able to fully reach it. In order to design buildings and structures that can be read at varying speeds, it is imperative that the perspective be utilized as a design tool. A simple two dimensional plan is not enough to explain the experience; Virilio’s idea about perspective must be employed. Using a consistent material or component within the sequence of the perspective allows the user to comprehend and to connect the spaces from one point of view to the next. Using planes to direct views, Mies van der Rohe used a tool called an “isovist”, a polygon from a vantage point describing the visual field of a viewer, allowing him to account for visual relationships established by a mobile observer. His system of isovists overlayed on a grid created a “theory and method for describing spatial characteristics and re50

mies van der rohe, barcelona pavilion, sequence of circulation and views

lating them to experiential, social, and cultural factors.”17. The use of reflective material combined with diagonal alignments allows the viewer to explore the space, never fully being able to see where they are being led. 1. Thwaites and Simkins, Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space, xii. 2. Robert Smithson in Schwarzer, Zoomscape: Architecture in Motion and Media, 115. 3. Virilio, A Landscape of Events, xi. 4. Thwaites and Simkins, Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space, xiv. 5. Virilio, A Landscape of Events, xi. 6. Jackson, Landscape in Sight: Looking at America, 238. 7. Schwarzer, Zoomscape: Architecture in Motion and Media, 72. 8. Thwaites and Simkins, Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space, 6. 9. Jackson, “The Discovery of the Street,” in The Necessity for Ruins, 55. 10. Ibid, 7. 11. Jackson, Landscape in Sight: Looking at America, 150. 12. Schwarzer, Zoomscape: Architecture in Motion and Media, 90. 13. Ibid, 99. 14. Ibid, 98. 15. Ibid, 18. 16. Diller and Scofidio, Flesh: Architectural Probes, 202. 17. Psarra, Architecture and Narrative: the formation of space and cultural meaning, 51.


“Bloody 66-it was a thing. Devil’s Elbow was supposed to be the death corner of the world. I remember Dad would get white knuckles ten minutes before we’d go through there.”

hooker cutoff, devil’s elbow, mo



4_america’s main street


1912: National Old Trails Association forms to promote a national transcontinental highway.

1917: The Ozark Trails Association maps the Ozark Trails, with one branch going from Springfield, MO to Romeroville, NM. This route will become part of Route 66.

“Highway 66 is the main migrant road. 66–the long concrete path across the country, waving gently up and down on the map, from the Mississippi to Bakersfield–over the red lands and the gray lands, twisting up into the mountains, crossing the Divide and down into the bright and terrible desert, and across the desert to the mountains again, and into the rich California valleys.”1 The name Route 66 remains today as one of the most authentic and recognizable American landmarks, running from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Yet its physical presence has severely diminished. It represents a time in American history that was distressing yet hopeful. It symbolized freedom and a new start as families escaped the depression in search of jobs out West. People no longer had to live in one place for their entire lives. The road portrayed a chronological recount of the typical American life from the 1920s until the 1970s. It symbolized the infatuation Americans had with cars and the culture that came with it. What began as a two lane road cutting through the undeveloped and scarcely settled West exists today as a network of small towns and fragments scattered along a two-lane road winding and weaving across the west. It is almost as if the road has completed the cycle of appearance, boom, and disappearance. 55



lincoln springfield

missouri nevada




springfield joplin

california tulsa peach springs los angeles santa monica

flagstaff san bernadino




santa rosa

shamrock amarillo


new mexico


oklahoma city


st. louis rolla

1926: US Route 66 commissioned thanks to Cyrus Avery, the president of the Associated Highways Association of America 1928: C.C. Pyle’s International Trans-Continental Foot Race won by Andy Payne in 573 hours, 4 min., 34 sec

1931: Entire Route 66 in Missouri is paved. 1934-39: Dust Bowl drives people down Route 66. John Steinbeck writes Grapes of Wrath, describing one families travels down Route 66.

1946: Bobby Troup writes “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” and sells the song to Nat King Cole.

The car was the driving factor behind the creation, design, and manifestation of Route 66. The road encouraged the construction of towns and communities, each with small shops, hotels, and gas stations catering directly to the transient traveller. Families uprooted in search of owning and running successful businesses in the unknown west. The road, a passage with a distinct beginning and end, simultaneously became a passage where one could stop as frequently as necessary or desired. It defined space before it existed in a the flat expanses of the United States. In a few places, the road was a predecessor to development; it became the glue that held communities together until the late 1970s. ROUTE 66 + AUTOMOBILITY In the 1920s, the path that would become Route 66 was paved for the first time - with wooden railroad ties. Barely fourteen feet wide, two cars could not pass each other at the same time. Missouri was one of the first states to completely pave their portion of Route 66 with concrete. As the route developed, small towns became larger towns, with motels, restaurants, drive-in movie theaters, and gas stations providing amenities for truck-drivers and other travelers. Never before had there been such a mass movement out west in the generation of cars. Not only were Americans moving as quickly as possible to the West, but automobile manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors were designing cars that could go faster and faster. Americans craved speed. The automobile had been a way of displaying wealth and superiority over others, but gradually became seen as a consumer owned “speed machine” capable of covering longer distances in shorter amounts of time. The car carved out new paths within the landscape and was accepted by travellers as the natural and inevitable expansion of mobility; “nothing it was thought should stand in the way of its modernizing path and its capacity to eliminate the constraints of time and space”2. Post-World War II brought a new wave of travelers - leisure drivers - who were interested in stopping to see the caverns, world’s largest gift store, mule stop, and other bizarre road stops. Leisure 57

1956: Federal-Aid Highway Act passes, constructing the interstate highway system, which replaces Route 66

1960: TV Show Route 66 premieres on CBS. 90% of Americans travel by private automobile.

1965: LBJ signs Highway Beautification Act, outlawing billboards on new interstates.

drivers were more interested in the entire experience of driving - not only being in the car, but also having the ability to stop as frequently as possible in order to experience the surrounding landscape. Urry quotes Barthes, who compared the American fascination with cars to gothic cathedrals in the Middle Ages: “the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by an unknown artist, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population, which appropriate them as a purely magical object.”3 And while there was this awe in the magical object, its practical application allowed for expedited development. The architecture built during this time was not built to last. Small buildings dotting the landscape were made with cheap materials like wood and stucco or wood and stone (known as the Ozark Giraffe style). While the stone was from the region, a vernacular style was never really established. The mix of people found in the state supports the idea that Missouri is a microcosm of the nation. “All of America is in this one place.”4 This mix of styles created interesting cityscapes full of signs and small buildings. The architectural form along the road was extremely important; they acted as much as signs as they were structures for business. Drivers were attracted to the signs along the road, which were usually enhanced by how they related to the buildings around them. These “commercial vernacular” buildings appeared regularly along the route, and became recognized as Route 66 architecture. A SYSTEM OF SIGNAGE The popularity of Route 66 would not have been possible without gimmicks, advertising, and signs placed in magazines and newspapers and on billboards throughout the country from the 1920s until the 1970s. In 1928, CC Pyle organized the International Transcontinental Footrace, where any American could enter to win the 3,421 mile race across the entire United States. Fliers were passed out, magazine ads were designed, and newspaper publicized the seemingly insane footrace. Towns were invited to house the runners along the way; they were asked to give money, and in return were able to advertise for their own interests. This constant 58

1938-1947 symmetrical + geometrical influenced by community structures constructed with steel and neon cars encouraged freestanding signs


asymmetrical used regional symbols out of context emphasis on marketing and carefully crafting directed messages to consumers


compositions were opposite of traditional: asymmetrical, irregular, abstract, decorative, brightly colored signs created out of fragments symbolized technological progress, speed, and individuality signage become much more important as the buildings were placed further back from the road

specialization + modularity prefabricated signs with less embellishment rectlinear + symmetrical forms brand image more important than function of building


designed with no context simple, rectilinear forms addressed the needs of a mass society


A History of Route 66 Signage Form and Styles 59

1976: US 66 Highway Association disbands.

Historic Route 66 signs supplement the regular road signs that label state roads and service roads.

advertising became well-known and strategized along the route. Michael Wallis writes, “the road was always about gimmicks. Every town had one or was busy trying to find it, to ferret it out, feast on it.”5 In the 1930s, Lester Dill opened Meramec Caverns near Stanton, Missouri. He advertised through bumper stickers, fliers, billboards, and painted barns. Even today, Dill’s advertisements remain on barns along the highway at every mile marker. Bright flashes of color attract traveler’s attention, quickly communicating place names and distances. Signage was the primary means of marketing to drivers going at high speeds and was how they could quickly take inventory of what motels, restaurants and filling stations were along town strips. Signmakers incorporated “well-known patterns of form, material, shape, and symbol to ensure that their signs had meaning and relevance to the people who used them.”6 In the early 1900s, signs hung off of downtown buildings, each with their own craftsmen and painters incorporating imagery and personal styles. With mobility came free-standing signs, primarily functional, containing the words “MOTEL”, “DINER”, or “CAFE”. The arrangement of graphic signs “[had] become the architecture of the landscape.”7 They make the unknown familiar and are an essential part of a larger, very sophisticated context including other buildings and signs. In Learning from Las Vegas, Venturi and Brown write that architecture is not enough, it is symbols and icons that began to dominate space. Their study on Las Vegas examined the relationship between sign and building, emphasizing the two types of architecture on the strip: the duck and the decorated shed. The duck refers to a building that is a symbol; it’s overall shape or structure tells the passerby something about the building or people inside. At the time of Learning from Las Vegas in the 1970s, Brown and Venturi asserted that they were entering into a period of ducks. Decorated sheds are conventional spaces and buildings upon which ornament and symbols are added.8 Along Route 66 lie many decorated sheds - unmemorable boxes with kitschy signs and memorabilia with ploys. The big sign and small building became the rule of Route 66. Photographers like Walker Evans and John Margolies 60

1984: Final stretch of Route 66 bypassed by four lane highway.

an abandoned jesse james museum and gift shop

1990: Route 66 Study Act of 1990: recognize highway’s importance + identify options for preservation

created and catalogued the roadside gallery of eye-catching shapes, bright colors, and merchandizing information. In the 1950s and 1960s when leisure travel become much more popular, signs were decorative forms from a distance and informational up close. Buildings and rituals were constructed simply for the purpose of being seen in a car. Movies such as American Graffiti, and Paris, Texas explored the role of the automobile through different decades, highlighting our obsession with using cars as a status symbol. Writers such as Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac, and John Steinbeck also wrote about the role of the automobile within the American culture. Steinbeck writes about the risks one took by simply choosing to drive across the country. Over two hundred and fifty thousand people were on the road, and over fifty thousand cars were broken down, steaming, abandoned.9 Today, while many older signs exist, their poor construction has left them broken and uninformative. In most cases, many businesses changed their signs throughout their history as design trends changed and parts were prefabricated, so the original design has changed several times. Today, the most prevalent signs along the route are the highway signs that communicate to drivers how to follow the original route. The original uniqueness of creating signs that described a single place has transitioned into a homogenous landscape of derelict buildings and signs. Rick Antonson writes, “Travelling Route 66 is not about understanding America; it is about contemplating America.”10 The remnants that remain to direct one’s journey along the road simply alude to a time when signs were the architecture and form along the journey. ROUTE 66 + URBAN FORM Within Missouri (similar to the rest of the country), the organization of towns began with a few community buildings located near each other - a courthouse, post office, school, and church. This rapidly grew to include various retail stores for travelers, while other locally needed resources remained outside of the downtown. As seen in Lebanon, Missouri, the town before Route 66 was a typical Midwestern town. There were a few filling stations along Elm 61

1926 Lebanon, Missouri: Route 66 had just been paved, and only a few stores and filling stations were located along the road.

1936 Lebanon, Missouri Businesses have boomed, with over three times the number of gas stations in a four block span.


Street, and little density; very few of the parcels of land were filled by businesses. Just 10 years later, the route was dotted with filling stations and motels catering to the driver along the road. Many of these smaller building typologies did not exist prior. The first American filling station appeared in St. Louis, owned by C.H. Laessig. Today, few of these filling stations remain; the town has commercialized and is no longer reliant upon the business along the disappearing Route 66. As mentioned previously, many of the structures along Route 66 were constructed hastily without much concern over lasting construction techniques. Smaller structures such as cabins or motor motels gave each traveller their own personal space where, similar to the automobile bubble, they could stay, having little interaction with other travellers. Everything accommodated the car and efficiency of being on the road. The organization of the road, with a visible element or sign positioned close to the cars and an unornamented hotel or restaurant. Overall, Route 66 barely exists today along its original route, poorly labelled and almost forgotten. This continues on the entire route, where small signs dictate turns but occasionally dump the travelers onto a dirt road or dead end. One can drive long stretches only encountering bugs on the windshield; no people in sight. All that remains is a kind of uneasiness; a distrust of the place, a restlessness. As eager and interested travellers drive through the streets of once vibrant towns, usually slowing down to 25 miles per hour, there is little to see; most shops are closed and the buildings are dilapidated. Jackson describes these Main Streets as “having lost much of [their] earlier vitality and [have] become, particularly in the center of town, a kind of skid row minus the drunks and tattoo parlors; a shabby corridor between decaying buildings with empty store windows, cars parked every which way in the vacant lots.�11 Keeping diners or other shops open is no longer economically feasible due to low tourist turn out, resulting in the state of ruin of many towns along the route, each mimicking the last.


Photos from the Road: Photos taken along Route 66 in Missouri


1. Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 160. 2. Urry, Mobilities, 114. 3. Ibid, p. 117 4. Wallis, Route 66: The Mother Road, 12. 5. Amy Wilson, “U.S. Route 66: Historic Road Is Time Line of America.” National Geographic News, January 18, 2002, accessed February 2, 2013. 6. Mahar-Keplinger, American Signs: Form and Meaning Along Route 66, 12. 7. Ibid, 36. 8. Venturi, Brown, and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: the forgotten symbolism of architectural form, 87-93. 9. Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 165. 10. Antonson, Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America’s Main Street, 298. 11. Jackson, Landscape in Sight: Looking at America, 71.



“Our first progress was in the restaurant. We changed it from the Chicken Shanty to the Munger Moss and put in a barbeque. Our next progress was fourteen stucco rooms - a room at each end, garages in the middle, then a gap. We had seven of those units.�

jessie hudson


5_site : sites : system


The entirety of Route 66 across the United States is quietly disappearing. Contrary to the road’s original draw, business owners and travelers are now leaving the road, moving back to larger, more urban contexts. After investigating the proposals made within all eight states for preserving Route 66, it became apparent that Missouri, while having one of the richest histories pertaining to Route 66, was doing the least about it. As written previously, Missouri was where the idea of Route 66 began. Several members of the current Missouri Route 66 Association have typed up a report, documenting all of the original structures and proposing that the route be preserved in the future with more signage and visitor centers explaining the route. The Missouri Route 66 Corridor Management Plan attempts to preserve, protect, promote, interpret, enhance, and manage “the intrinsic resources found throughout the Missouri Route 66 corridor.�1 Examining the diminishing existence of Route 66 currently in Missouri, there exists an interesting paradox. The road that replaced Route 66 - Interstate 44 - runs parallel to the old road across three-quarters of the state. While a driver goes 25 mph through a town on Route 66, they can look over and see other cars going 75 mph to their right. These two roads now overlap; several 69



times, Route 66 turns and goes over I-44. The constant criss-cross becomes confusing with little signage by the end of the trip; travellers become accustomed to expect a turn upon site of I-44. People driving along I-44 have no idea that the bridge that they are driving under is Historic Route 66. And drivers going along Route 66, unless previously aware of the history and culture behind the road, have little idea of what they are driving through as they slowly meander their way through Missouri. The places where the two overlap become “points of friction� where three speeds intersect: highway speed, Route 66 speed, and pedestrian speed. These sites have little history standing alone, but together, they form the history of Route 66. The thesis proposes eleven total sites comprised of three different sizes of rest stops. Each site not only serves as a rest stop, but also becomes a node of information for tourists who may be following Route 66 or driving along the highway. They become more like the usual rest stops that have information and restrooms, but are placed at historically important locations. Of the eleven sites, all have access from both roads, but none are currently destinations. There is little architecture along the way; the buildings that are there are small, quickly and cheaply built. The land used for each site has been carved with American infrastructure over time - often leaving plots of land that are normally unusable and awkwardly-shaped. The sites were chosen based on their distance away from each other, combining some smaller stops used only by a few cars with larger stops about an hour away from each other than can be used by both truck drivers and smaller automobiles.

1. Missouri Route 66 Corridor Management Plan, 2009.



St. Robert, Missouri Small rest stop sited between the highway and exit ramp. Informs visitors about Highway Beautification Act. The site uses a tract of land carved out by the highway, exit ramp, and Route 66.


St. Clair, Missouri This mid-sized rest stop is sited on an existing parking lot. This stop informs visitors about the great move west during the Dust Bowl, when families such as the one depicted in Grapes of Wrath left their homes in search of better weather, better opportunities, and better lives. The site is long and narrow, lending itself to an extended rest stop seen from all roads surrounding it.


Lebanon, Missouri This large rest stop informs visitors about the role of Route 66 today. It is sited close to where the magnetic hot springs used to be in Lebanon. Lebanon was the home of one of the first motels along Route 66, Camp Joy. The road only ran through Lebanon for 32 years, but in that time, had a large impact on the town. The rest stop aims to show the seeming invisibility of the current Route 66 when compared to the mainstream highway.


“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.� Charles Kuralt

6_the roadside rest stop


As the automobile swallows large expanses of pavement, the view, especially in the western United States, rarely changes. The once untouched, picturesque views of many towns and cities have become cluttered with signs, electrical poles, and cheaply built fast food joints, each vying for the most attention from drivers. Yet there remains a question: what is it that causes us to stop once we are in our vehicle and have no need for gas or food? Is it an interesting form? Breathtaking view? Is it built form or natural landscape? When travellers decide to pull off of the road, the role of architecture is to facilitate an experience, whether it be completely controlled or looser, allowing users to explore the site as they wish. At its most basic, the architecture must be functional. Few travellers today desire to spend time trying to find the entrance to a building. Usually, it is a quick trip into the bathroom at a rest stop, each located about an hour or two away from the next. This is the standard expectation along infrastructure such as highways and interstates, but not as much along Route 66. The intersection of these two mentalities affects the relationship on site of the parking lot, rest rooms, and open space. The main components of a rest stop are infrastructural: parking, pathways, lighting, rest rooms, vending machine areas, information booths or boards, 83

and eating areas. The typical site layout – one cookie cutter building taken over by huge parking lots for cars and trucks, does not respond to the vernacular buildings of the area or the culture of local people. Visitors are able to enter from any point and spend usually no more than ten minutes inside of the building before getting back into their vehicle and continuing their journey. The current method of travel, going from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible, causes travelers to become oblivious to what they pass or where they stop. Photographer Nicolo Sertorio documented various rest stops across the United States. Most are very simply built surrounded by expanses of flat, uninhabited land, giving no indication of where the photos were taken. They are convenient and made to shelter a traveller while they quickly eat a meal outside of their car. They represent the American mentality of building what is cheap, easy, and most convenient. Among the rest stops in the US, only a few attempt to celebrate the surrounding local culture, mimicking a style from the past (Neocolonial, Medieval, etc.). The interior is still filled with museum-like exhibits. Why does the architecture of rest stops mimick romantic ideas of the past instead of creating new forms and meanings, only drawing inspiration from the past? This project attempts to create a new typology of rest stops. Eighteen Norwegian Tourist Routes running through the beautiful natural landscape are an idea sponsored by the government attempting to “leave traces of our own time and to offer tourists good experiences at the same time.”1 Along each route, small installations are developed as specific pieces of architecture, designed as a part of the road system and landscape, offering views and vistas. Each of the stops are positioned within the natural landscape, creating new locations along the routes that change the rhythm of the journey from simply a trip from A to B to an sequential and culturally richer experience. Some of the sites communicate the country’s history while others re-establish sites and experiences. The jewel-like nature of the architecture commands attention from drivers, encouraging them to pull over. The programs of these follies are requirements of the road: rest rooms, cafe, visitor information, parking and eating areas, and walking 84

rest stops across the United States, roughly placed on the landscape


diagram of norway tourist routes, marking time, distance, and materials




3 4 7


6 7

2 programmatic areas: (1/32” = 1’-0”) 1_truck parking 2_car parking 3_eating pavilions 4_lobby 5_mechanical 6_food/vending 7_mens + womens restrooms


300 ft. x 175 ft. (# of trucks = 10) 215 ft. x 100 ft. (# of cars = 20) 100 sq. ft., # dependent upon capacity 800-1000 sq. ft. 350-500 sq. ft. 225 sq. ft. min. 700 sq. ft. each

paths. The materials used are ones that both highlight the landscape and the built environment in the specific locations. The spacing of the stops works well for the driver. The stops are not so close or far apart that they become a hassle or bother; the rhythm of the road becomes one that the driver looks forward to each new stop as they drive. One interesting, yet underdeveloped part of American rest stops that is not fully explored is the integration of the building with the surrounding landscape. Rest areas are “generally completely cut off from their surroundings, appearing as bulges in the canal of asphalt, median, signs, and other markers that make up interstate highways.�2 Ramps and highways create small patches of land that cannot be used by vehicles, but the building, usually very centralized, is compact. Many travellers wish to stretch their legs or walk their dogs at rest stops and usually have little space in which to do this. Missouri does not document their design guidelines for rest areas; they currently use the same cookie cutter building across the entire state, regardless of site or location. Using the guidelines stated by the State of Illinois, which list the exact square footage allocations for rest areas, the main spaces called for are lobby, vending area, information, rest rooms, and mechanical areas. Other areas not required, but suggested are picnic tables, playground, and pet walks. The figure on the previous page shows the areas of program comparatively.3 Upon analyzing the functionality of buildings along Route 66, many were made for recreational purposes only. These spaces for gathering encouraged both locals and travellers to coexist in these places, strengthening the community. Within each medium and large rest stop, the plan will include unprogrammed space that can function as a gathering area, a place for meetings, as well as exhibit space to inform travellers about Route 66. Recently built in Arcadia, Oklahoma, a rest area, cafe, and soda counter, POPS, has become a central meeting place for travellers along the road as well as locals. While this space is much more planned, it still employs the idea of the unique and unseen elsewhere to draw in the curious 89

travelling through the Midwestern landscape. The iconic soda bottle and large, unnecessary structure of the building attract the drivers attention and pay homage to the 1950s. The outdoor patio is used for gatherings and movie nights during warmer weather, while the interior serves as both a cafe and soda shop. The road side attraction is not meant to be kitschy or tongue and cheek; it’s about place and the landscape.4

1. Berre and Lyshom, eds., National Tourist Routes in Norway (Shanghai: Promus Printing, 2010) accessed February 20, 2013. 2. Betsky, “On the Road,” 88. 3. Illinois Rest Area Guide, 2010. 4. Dillon, ”POPS,” 72.


POPS, Elliot and Associates Architects, the iconic bottle in front stands out and attracts attention in the extremely flat landscape 91



The design of each individual rest stop in the system through Missouri is important. However, in order to construct a narrative amongst the rest stops, several “rules� will dictate relationships, approach, and construction, creating a similar language with a few variations. A repeated material pallet of billboards and local Missouri stone will serve as a quick reference to drivers passing by that each rest stop is part of a larger system. Details will vary according to the speed passing the facade. There are three scales of rest stops, each varying according to the possible users of the site and quantity of parking spots. The smallest contains only rest rooms, the mid-size includes an unprogrammed space that can be used for community events as well as a museum, and the largest provides amenities for both automobile and truck drivers. Each rest stop is around 30 minutes apart from the next, so as a person traverses the state of Missouri, the stops form a rhythm and continuity that even at fast speeds become identifiable and intriguing. It is not assumed that each traveller will stop at each one; rather, by stopping at two or three, one gets a sense of the historic Route 66 as well as becoming aware of time passing as they travel through mostly barren or uninteresting landscapes. 93


1_USERS When thinking about different rest stop users, the typical trucker, tourist, and family of four come to mind. By taking a more specific look at possible users of both Interstate 44 and Route 66, the system of rest stops is more refined, addressing individual travelers needs and dictating which stops become larger and which smaller. While traveling Route 66, it is possible to see a variety of travellers those that are curious about the historical route, those that accidentally got lost on the road, local residents going to work or shop, as well as the truck drivers who take the side road to get from place to place. By further hypothesizing about how often one might take a break while driving, the diagram was created to show how often and where travellers would stop amongst the eleven rest stops. When interviewed, truck drivers mentioned that they would like to see more lighting and pathways for exercise at rest stops. Amongst travelers, one of the primary reasons for stopping at a rest stop is to stretch and move around, and many times a compact and small area does not allow for this.


2_SITE STRATEGY Each of the different speeds passing by the site will dictate a system of lines that mark how far a car will go in one second. These lines become a system upon which billboards are placed. The billboards create both a system of communication with passers-by as well marking time and distance. The chart below shows the speed in miles per hour (mph) as well as the equivalent feet per second (fps), the second of which is projected onto the site. 5 mph = 7 fps 15 mph = 22 fps 25 mph = 37 fps 35 mph = 51 fps 45 mph = 66 fps 55 mph = 81 fps 65 mph = 95 fps 75 mph = 110 fps The billboards also serve as the common markers on each site through which the building winds. On the exterior of each rest stop, the intersection between the billboard and stone causes a break in the stone; in the interior, the stone continues through the billboard, creating a difference of details depending on the speed at which one is experiencing the rest stop. SEQUENCE OF ENTRY At each site, the sequence one goes through to reach the building is extended in order to present the visitor with more information, and more practically in order to give the traveller more time to stretch and move around at the stop. As one approaches the site in a vehicle, a parking lot or spaces are located farther from the building. The billboards located outside of the building become landscape features that then inform the pedestrian as well as from far away, communicate to the traveller that the rest stop is part of a larger system.


75 mph

55 mph POPS, Elliot and Associates Architects, the iconic bottle in front stands out and attracts attention in the extremely flat landscape

35 mph 97

These barns found along Route 66 are some of the more articulated forms amongst the simple, rectangular forms created cheaply and quickly.

3_VERNACULAR AS INSPIRATION The form of the rest areas comes from the barns dotting the highway throughout Missouri. As mentioned previously, the architecture along Route 66 was built quickly and cheaply in order to provide amenities for passing travelers, so much more emphasis was placed on the signage of each business rather than the actual building. The unimpressive and often boring forms complement the usual construction of rest stops; they are not usually built in a vernacular tradition; rather, they all appear similar, furthering the feeling of placelessness sometimes accompanied with long distance travel. The forms drawn above represent a vernacular building type prevalent in most American landscapes. This simple building form becomes the starting point for the form of the buildings, each paying homage to past construction. The barn, a structure that is usually common along the road, becomes an ephemeral piece of the rest stop design, while the billboard becomes the common structure at each rest stop. The combination of temporal advertising and permanent structure allows for a dialogue to emerge in each rest stop.


building billboard

process model, studying the relationship between billboard and building 99

4_CONSTRUCTION + PROGRAM The construction of the rest stops at the detail level responds to the speed of passersby. The side of the building that faces the highway will be constructed out of smooth stone, with openings to allow light into each bathroom stall. These slits not only mark the program of the building, but will also allow those using the facility to see the headlights of cars at night zooming past the building, connecting them to the speed of the road. On the other side of the building where pedestrians and slower travellers pass will be a more articulated wall where the stone begins to separate or rotate, offering more directed views of the site, billboards, and road. The program on this side of each rest stop is either public space or sink areas where views do not need to be as concealed.





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Scott, Quinta. Along Route 66. Norman, Oklahoma: Univeristy of Oklahoma Press, 2001. Scott, Quinta and Susan Croce Kelly. Route 66: the highway and its people. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990. Spiluttini, Margherita. Tourismus und Landschaft = Tourism and landscape. New York: Springer, 2004. Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: The Viking Press, 1939. Thwaites, Kevin and Ian Simkins. Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space. New York: Routledge, 2007. Tschumi, Bernard. Event Cities 2. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001. Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. Urry, John. Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity, 2007. Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brownand Steven Izenour. Learning from Las Vegas: the forgotten symbolism of architectural form. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1977. Virilio, Paul. A Landscape of Events. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000. Wallis, MIchael. Route 66: The Mother Road. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001. Wilson, Amy. “U.S. Route 66: Historic Road is Time Line of America.” National Geographic News, January 18, 2002, accessed February 2, 2013.


M. Arch Thesis Document  

This document records the research done prior design for my Masters of Architecture Thesis. This thesis examines the construction of a hist...

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