Visions of urban mobility: the Westway, London, England

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This paper explores issues of urban architecture and geography through an interpretation of built form. More specifically, it attends to the urban landscapes of mobility of the elevated highway, showing how landscape and environment frame ideas and practices of movement. The concept of limited access highways in the city could be considered as the epitome of modernity, reflecting the ever-increasing speed of everyday life and the distancing of individuals from communities. Separation from contact with the landscape and its effect on space-time relationships creates a new spatiality. The elevated highway project opens up the possibility of a completely new perception of the city, from above and at speed. The Westway, opened in 1970, is a two and a half-mile long elevated highway linking the centre of London, England with the west of England route to Oxford. The paper treats the space of the Westway in two particular ways: firstly as a modernist marker, symbolic of prevailing national urban aspirations; secondly as material form, through considering the Westway as machinic entity and as cinematic experience. Through this combination I argue that reading landscape as text is insufficient in the analysis of built form; other frameworks are necessary. In particular, this paper seeks to understand architectural space and form through a closer connection of body to space and form in both the kinaesthetic and imaginary senses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-91
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


  • elevated highway
  • landscape
  • urban architecture
  • urban mobility


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