Lenses of Connectivity: Adapting the Impact of Urban Highways on American Cities

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Virginia Tech

Once thriving neighborhoods in mid-sized American cities have been decimated, scarred and disrupted by the serpentine free form highways that have touched them. This product of technological innovation from the 1950s and 60s has had a profound and disturbing affect upon American cities. The collective history, cultural rituals and organic urban fabric of life has been almost completely extinguished in these cities by the false opportunity and instant gratification that comes with so-called 'technological progress.' This, yes this, epitomizes the urban core of a majority of cities across the United States early in the early 21st century. What is to be the future legacy of these American cities upon the life of their residents?

It quickly became apparent that to develop a deep understanding of this urban challenge, it was going to be necessary to carefully examine cites that have been acutely affected by urban highways. The neighborhoods at the core of these damaged American cities trudge on'.. Why? Because they have no other option'. The question currently at hand is how can these damaged neighborhoods adjacent to urban highways, and their associated cities, be regenerated?

The research phase of this thesis exposed four critical elements of a thriving and organic urban neighborhood; connectivity, realness, livability and performativity. I was encouraged to focus upon and explore this notion of connectivity by my thesis committee, as it represents the element offering the most agency for the design professions. Through interrogating the [dis]connectivity of four specific neighborhoods in Baltimore, Buffalo, Richmond and St Petersburg certain operational systems began to evolve. These systems center around three critical lenses of focus; the economic, social and physical operations that occur within and adjacent to an urban neighborhood. Due to its acute condition, the Gilpin neighborhood of Richmond, Virgina was chosen as a case study to employ the lenses of connectivity through close examination and intervention.

Urban Design, Freeways, Highways, Adaption, Connectivity, Lenses, Neighborhood