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The View From the Road

Part 2 Project 1998
Emma Williamson
Curtin University Perth Australia

The shift in our position in the metropolis, from sidewalk to road, has led to an alternative reading of our environment. It is time for architecture to address the possibilities that result from this shift.

Through the use of the private vehicle, within the public zone of the freeway, the distinctions between private and public becomes less clear. The freeway system involves us in a new type of interaction, a kind of mutual commitment to the notions of space and privacy, in a ritual performed from the privacy of our car. The extension of the Perth metropolis along the coastline is a luxury that has been made possible by the car, and by its design necessitates the use of the car.

At the point of the freeway exit the sense of detachment that can result from the repetition of the journey along the freeway, is broken. The driver becomes aware of their surroundings. Within this zone the surroundings have the potential to be amongst the most powerful. An architecture of speed, accessibility and optimism is possible here in an environment empowered by technology and communication.

The site in which these propositions are tested is at the point of entry and exist to the freeway, between suburb and freeway. This site addresses the issues of the car - it is not the site of a pedestrian. The "drive through village" tests notions of community from the distance of the private vehicle, re-framing the ordinary and re-presenting this as extraordinary.

In the suburban context, ornament and decoration can be seen as an attempt at individuality and identity, working within the limitations of consumerism and mass production. Commercial strip development employs an alternative language to that of decoration, focusing on recognition of the building type from a distance and at speed. These buildings become important to our understanding of the built environment and our relative position within it.

A commercially viable urban response is developed which combines the existing "siteless" architecture of the suburbs with a more site-specific response-a container for mobility through the combined languages of the typologies of suburban decoration and commercialism.

The new model would privilege mobility and anonymity as essential elements in the suburban metropolis. No more 'Eat here or take away'-we are having it here, in our car.
Emma Williamson


For many years the region generally known as Perth has been trying to grow in to the rather large boots that it gave itself in order to be just like the others. Today the toes are still wriggling about a bit, unsure of how to bridge the space between the domestic body(the Home and Suburb) and the cultivated artificial structure that it must fit into(Metropolitan Infrastructure). This space - in - between is the approach zone of the dissertation and it is in this nowhere place that considerable thought has been directed by Williamson in order to uncover some of the city's most consequential new sites for auto-habitation.

Williamson explores the metropolis with mindful and romantic eyes. The graphic and written results of the search are intriguing and often beautiful, they are the points of reference that we use to navigate through the dissertation in order to determine our own position. They reveal the specific differences that can be drawn out of particular circumstances and environments. These environments are often thought of as generic but they are in fact, as we see in the dissertation, specific and definitive.

The work itself connects the inevitable realities of our everyday experience such as driving and TV in order to expose the texture of the present situation. Once the substance of the ordinary and phenomenal world has been recognised and exposed then we are able to work with it, alter it, add to it - enjoy it. The satisfaction of this project comes when the mind tingles as we realise the unexpected potential of what sits right there in front of us, next to the road, between the freeway and the suburb. In combining explicit ideas about commercialism, speed and beautification the project developed for the dissertation proposes a dazzling drive through village.

The View from the Road cultivates the ordinary, it exposes the importance of personalisation and makes something out of nothing. I find myself in a curious position, wondering if Williamson is not in fact that well known folk tale character who possesses the extraordinary power to turn ordinary into exquisite, banal into artistic, Frogs into Princes. An extraordinary exposure and distinctive work.

Stephen Neille
Department of Architecture

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