The relevance of highways

June 8, 2009

It is hard to imagine a Houston without highways. How you can’t go anywhere without coming in contact with the highway. No matter where you are you have to be aware of your position as it relates to the highway. This reality  though shows the dependency that the city has developed towards its concrete arteries. They are the only mode of transportation for long distances and some would say even for short distances. So in Houston the relevance of the highway is that they are essential for the ability of the city to live.

It could be argued that the highway is essential to the survival of any city, to take it further to the survival of any country. This is true, but the difference is that the highway is essential both to the workings and to the identity of Houston. Let’s take a much older city, Munich, Germany, which I recently visited. It is one of the largest cities in Germany and one constantly filled with travelers from all over the world. The highway in Germany is treated much differently than it is in Houston. The beginnings of the highway can be said to be very similar: both were made to transport the military quickly across the country. The difference comes in the way that the highway meets and interacts with the city. In Houston the highway seems to pierce through the city dividing anything that comes in its path. The city then grows out from the highway. In Munich the highway appears to be much less important. The highway is subservient to the city, it is defined by the city not the other way around. The highway also seems to dissolve as it nears the city center. It goes from four or five lanes into a large boulevard until it becomes part of the normal city street grid. Also the highways seem to have no problem disappearing under the city for a while and then reappear where it is appropriate. There is a real sense of hierarchy in the way the highway meets the city.  In the end what all of this means for the city is that the highway plays a supportive role as opposed to a dominant role. The highway doesn’t dictate development, as it does in Houston. So as you enjoy a stroll in Marien Platz one of the last things on your mind is: “how do I get back to 59 from here?”.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: