Now I said hello to the spirit of old 1956
It was patient in the bushes next to '57
Well the highway was my only girlfriend 'cause I went by so quick
And suburban trees were out there
And consequently it smelled like heaven

Jonathan Richman, "Roadrunner", 1973

The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act was signed in to law on Friday, June 29th, 1956. Couched in the the split-rhetoric of early Cold War nuclear paranoia and the suddenly attainable middle-class novelty of dispersed suburban living, far from the inner-city, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was the opening volley in the epic narrative of post-industrial urban decay in America.

The Interstate Highway System remains one of the largest land transformation efforts in human history, with 123,601 rural lane-miles and 92,302 urban lane-miles comprising the system as of 2010. This physical manifestation represents a permanent alteration of the American landscape; creating a network that anticipates constant use and demands permanent maintenance, diligence, and upgrade.

Prior to the codification of roadway standards, both locally and federally, parkways were designed and installed by community automotive clubs. As the need for a uniform, regulated roadway system become apparent, as justified by the need to evacuate populaces in the event of nuclear attack, communities were rarely given any meaningful say in the placement of highways or exit and entrance ramps; decisions were uniformly dictated by construction standards and features of the natural landscape, occasionally at the expense of the local community's apparent needs and desires.

It took grass-roots community efforts in New Orleans, New York, San Fransisco and South Pasadena to set a precedence that the American people deserved and expected a voice in the placement and distribution of these structures; road-planning was not the sole domain of highway engineers and urban planning experts, but residents could have a legitimate opinion as well.

The Interstate Console System aspires to recontextualize the experience of operating an automobile along the north and south routes of California State Route 110 – the Historic Arroyo Parkway through Pasadena and South Pasadena. By forcing a connection between mildly strenuous, highly coordinated physical activity and forward movement through a familiarly automotive space, the experience is meant to present questions around the relationship of body, place and travel.

[Photo by Sanwoo Han]

The console itself is intended to inhabit public spaces commonly associated with and dedicate to transportation – such as the local Department of Motor Vehicles, any Los Angeles Metro train platform, or the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, located in downtown Los Angeles. The material construction choices are direct outcomes of this installation context, as the console would need to feel appropriately institutional, be easily and quickly installed and deinstalled, and be extremely clear in the expectations that the user is to draw in the relationships between the skateboard deck, the kick-controller and the console cabinet.

Office of Highway Policy Information. "Table HM-60: Functional System Lane-Length – 2010". Federal Highway Administration. [Retrieved Dec 8, 2012.]

Lewis, Tom. Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. Penguin Book Group, USA. 1999.

Brief: This Is Not a Knob
Class: MDP–553 Productive Interaction
Instruction: Prof. Elise Co
ActionScript Assistance: Andrew Nagata
Term: Fall, 2012

Media Design Practices | Lab 2014
Art Center College of Design | Pasadena, CA