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Slipway Cultures

Part 1 Dissertation 1998
Daniel Chadwick
Manchester School of Architecture, UK
The consistency of condition within communication networks, in particular
motorways, and how globalised culture is interacting with collective and individual identities is worthy of examination. The investigation is into representation and the immersion of the individual in fields of activity created by the condition of these communication lines. ‘Fields’ which may be dominated by sign, exist as a non-place or a place with meaning accreted to them. If occupation is in a constant state of flux then does the nature of sacred and profane exist? Culture, perhaps, is a loosely connected set of practices and values which the individual participates in by varying degrees. ‘Radical’ freedom encourages autonomy thereby destroying the form of community life. The car has been the icon of Capitalism with the power of the individual to act freely at the heart of this paradigm. Heidegger (Standish 1992) believes ‘to free’ is ‘to spare’, through letting things be. As a ‘free’ society allows for the essence of truth to be revealed, how is it that attempts are being made to conceal the true nature of the motorway? Slipway cultures are as a result of the dissolving of genius-loci into a mono-loci.

The Manchester Outer Ring Road provides the case study upon which this thesis is structured. The motorway is transforming our conventional reading of space. ‘Perception’ looks at how communication networks are changing our relationship with surrounding space. The image of the city as a whole and its formal definition are constantly shifting. ‘Transformation’ outlines the role played by the transportation network within the city. The city is shaped by changing political, cultural and socio-economic forces. ‘Attitudes’ discusses the shift in policies on a national scale with respect to road-building and how in turn this has effected the built environment of Manchester. Based on these wider issues, ‘Direct Effects’ focuses our attention on the local consequences as a motorway is implemented. ‘Indirect Effects’ examines in greater detail those places which exemplify spatial and cultural conditions which have been effected by the highway. Instead of undermining our sense of place, the motorway may help with the realisation of the Capitalist driven processes upon the landscape.


Auge, Marc: Non Places: pub. Verso 1995

Davis, Mike: City of Quartz: Pub. Verso 1990

Maunsell & Partners: Link Road 17/7 Report on Elevated Structure: Jan 1963

Selnec (SE Lancashire & NE Cheshire Highway Engineering Comittee): A Highway Plan: 1962

Daniel Chadwick

An exceptional piece of work at this level. Six volumes (count`em) from `Foreword` (sic) through to `References`. An examination of what the author calls `slipway cultures.....the result of the dissolving of genius loci into a mono loci`. The section on `Perception` is almost hypnotic in its effect with the author showing the breadth of his reading and the fertility of his ideas in a passage of writing which unravels at breakneck speed. In `Transformation` the sweep of the writing is slightly undermined by the frustrating omission of illustrations and the inclusion of some statements not supported by the detailed examination displayed in other sections -there is the sense that he is writing for someone who knows all the buildings and all the sources (OMA`s plan for Merlun-Serent?). `Attitudes` is an exceptional, and I must say occasionally tedious, survey of post war tendencies in design for traffic and the attendant legislation. `Direct Effects` is the section where the writing strongly builds from the solid foundation of the preceding survey. The `abstracted insertion` of the motorway is examined in terms of its actual impact - good illustrations are matched by the power of the writing. `Indirect Effects` is the most problematic section in that the dissertation encounters structural problems incorporating an overlong description of the development of Wythenshawe as a garden city, but any problems are outweighted by the examination of the Trafford Centre and the incidental areas affected by the motorway. The author`s belief in a new process driven landscape which is expressed more overtly in the final part of `Indirect Effects` suggests a new relationship between activity and site.

This dissertation discussed the history of the development of Manchester’s orbital motorway and its structural and cultural consequences.

It is both exhaustive and engrossing with an excellent use of original source material. The author intelligently interprets statistical information in the light of its effect on the urban environment. This is coupled with an acute eye for seemingly paradoxical situations which emerge on the periphery (e.g. see figure 119).


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