Fun with Highways: Super Tuesday, Part 2 – Ohio

Today we devote the second of our “Super Tuesday” Fun with Highways articles to the state of Ohio. Although the state is often known for its agricultural and industrial heritage, we choose to focus on its major urban centers here. Although not originally intended as such, it could be called “fun with bridges.”

We begin near Cleveland, the state’s largest metropolitan area. I-90 comes in from the east along the shore of Lake Erie. At “Dead Man’s Curve”, the highway makes an abrupt and rather angular turn to the south to become the Innerbelt Freeway along the edge of downtown.


[Burtcbl at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons]

The above view shows old and new aspects of the city’s skyline. The Terminal Tower is the classic deco skyscraper from the early 20th century is visible in the distance. The highly geometric and sleek Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a contrast along the waterfront. In between, the Key Tower, the tallest in Ohio, combines elements of both.

I-90 intersects with the northern terminus of I-77 at a rather complicated interchange before continuing across the Cuyahoga River on the “Innerbelt Bridge.”


[Photo by GandZ on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

The bridge crossings over the Cuyahoga in Cleveland are numerous, and perhaps define the city as much as the skyline, if not more. Even the image above showing the Innerbelt Bridge carrying I-90, we see several others. There is a low-lying rail bridge crossing underneath at an angle. It is one of many low bridges that can be raised for water traffic on the river. I believe this one is no longer in use and is permanently in the raised position.

The most iconic of the many crossings is the Detroit-Superior Bridge carrying US 6 and US 20 across the river into downtown. The name seems a little odd, as we’re not in Detroit and Cleveland is on Lake Erie rather than Lake Superior. But it connects Detroit Avenue with West Superior Avenue and thus the name is quite appropriate. It rises high above the river and is quite picturesque against the downtown skyline.


[Burtcbl at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons]

Looking towards the lake from this bridge, one sees how closely packed the crossings are, and the diversity of shape, height, function, and level of disuse. In the picture below, we see the blue bridge carrying a major freeway, State Highway 2, beyond that a rail bridge, and in the front the ruins of the older Detroit Avenue viaduct.


[By Craig Hatfield [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The viaduct, like the unused rail bridge shown above, are quite interesting as artistic subjects, and even qualify as “hyperart” as described in conceptual artist Akasegawa Genpei in his book Hyperart: Thomasson (you can find out more about it here). Thus, it should not be surprising that I would very much like to visit this part of the city for artistic inspiration, to explore the bridges both in use and abandoned, as well as other places along in this industrial riverfront section of the city known as the Flats.


[Photo by Chris Hamby on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

Cleveland has actually long served as a magnet for artists interested in urban and industrial landscape, so this is nothing new. Indeed, the city has seen the same cycle of others where rundown or neglected neighborhoods attract artists in search of low rent and inspiration, and then the costs of living rise. But it still seems to have much to offer and I hope to get the chance to visit soon.

We depart Cleveland continuing on I-90, and then switch onto I-71 to journey diagonally across the length and breadth of the state. It winds through the suburbs, crossing many other highways before intersecting our friend I-80, which runs across the state as the Ohio Turnpike. The Ohio Turnpike is familiar from numerous cross-country trips, with the rolling hills and suburbs giving way to a much straighter road over flat terrain and farmland as one heads west. But in this instance, we continue south on I-71 towards Columbus, the state’s capital and largest city.


[Click image to enlarge.]

Columbus is in the middle of the state, and without much to get in the way it has developed the “standard” set of ring roads we see in many cities around the world: an outer beltway (in this case, I-270) and an inner belt around the downtown (a combination of I-70, I-71, I-670 and State Highway 315).


[Photo created by Alexander Smith on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

Looking at the Ohio State House, it initially looks like something is missing: the dome that is ubiquitous on so many seats of government. It appears as if it has been shaved off. In actuality, this is part of the design, an older Greek Revival design that predates the current Capitol dome in Washington, DC, that was then used subsequently in most states.

Columbus does have its bridges as well, including the Lane Avenue Bridge which includes some classical elements in its otherwise modern design.

And of course I would be remiss if I did not mention Ohio State, as I have several friends who are devoted lifelong fans due to their connections to either the university of the community.

Leaving Columbus, we continue southwest on I-71 to Cincinnati.


[Photo by Rdikeman]

One stop we must make while in the city is to the Contemporary Arts Center. The CAC is perhaps most famous for its exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe in 1990 that still resonates in discussions of “controversial art” (though honestly Mapplethorpe’s photographs themselves don’t seem that controversial anymore, I have seen on multiple occasions in recent years). But the museum is more recently known for its building with fragmented geometric sections designed by architect Zaha Hadid; and for programs that feature architecture and design.

The city is home to the Cincinnati Art Museum. It is a relatively conventional art museum with a wide-ranging collection, but it does include yet another piece by Mark di Suvero for us to encounter is this series. Atman is another large red metal outdoor sculpture, but without the typical rounded element.


[Photo by Adam Norwood on flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

Cincinnati lies along the state’s namesake river, which forms the border with Kentucky to the south. As such the city has its own set of bridges, though nothing to approach the density of Cleveland. The most interesting perhaps is the John A Roebling Bridge. One can see many of the elements that Roebling would ultimately use in New York for the Brooklyn Bridge.


[Photo by Rick Dikeman on Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

Another Cincinnati Bridge that has been in the news is the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries I-71 together with I-75 south into Kentucky. The bridge is featured prominently in the city skyline image above. It also one of the 15 bridges labeled by the Federal government as “structurally unsafe”, which sounds quite bad (indeed, President Obama used it as a backdrop for a speech about rebuilding our infrastructure). The bridge itself made the case in 2011 when chunks of concrete fell from the upper deck to the lower deck. Proposals are currently being considered for a replacement.

Fun with Highways: Michigan

Today we continue our “primary highways” tour with a virtual visit to Michigan, and in particular to Detroit.

My most significant visit to the state took my to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan for a music technology conference. The conference was a great experience, of course. The campus what quite interesting as well. As with many traditional college campuses, it has an iconic bell tower, Burton Tower. But it has a second one as well on the modernist North Campus. Our conference required going back and forth between the two where we could easily see the contrast between the traditional collegiate architecture and the modernist, which I quite liked but my colleagues derided.

If instead of going west from airport to Ann Arbor on I-94 we had instead gone east, we would have arrived in Detroit. I have yet to visit Detroit, and as such the city has taken on a mythical quality. I-94 enters the city as the Edsel Ford Freeway, mostly staying to the north of the city center. We can turn south onto I-75, the Chrysler Freeway to head downtown. One would expect the “motor city” to have an impressive network of freeways. I-75 runs along the edge of downtown as the Fisher Freeway, and together with I-375 and Michigan Highway M-10 form a loop around downtown, anchored by some large interchanges on either end.

As one can see in this map, the loop frames the downtown and Grand Park Circus. The famous People Mover is primarily located within the boundaries of the loop as well. But us now turn our attention to the surface level, beginning with this view from the connection between M-10 and I-75.


[Photo by ifmuth on flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]

That large building behind the highways is Michigan Central Station (or sometimes Michigan Central Depot, perhaps someone can tell us which is the correct name actually is).


[Albert duce [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

The massive and once upon a time grand train station now sits alone and abandoned. It symbolizes much about the city and its history, both rise and decline; and people have very strong opinions about it. It’s “heartbreaking” to some who love Detroit. Some see potential for it to have new uses in the future, perhaps as green revitalization project. Others simply see it as an “eyesore” that needs to be removed. For me, it is quite captivating as a quintessentially American form of “ruin.” We tend not have ruins, preferring to remove that which offends us in favor of bigger, faster, newer, etc. And ruins from the 20th century seem even more vulnerable to our need to remove and remake. But perhaps more than most large cities, Detroit stands out for its ruins that remain. This in part because the city was the center of our iconic automobile industry, and quite prosperous with grand buildings and streets. The decline and decay are quite dramatic, but happened in such a way that many of the places are still there in their decayed state. I first became fascinated with this through the website The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit, which is a loving tribute to the city and its ruins, albeit a melancholy one. And for me, these ruins can be as much a source of creative inspiration as the landscape of Arizona that we explored yesterday. Indeed some of the basic elements of color, shape, texture and sound have things in common, although the human factor is quite different. There is definitely more that Dystopian feel here. I could certainly see music and image inspired by visiting the ruins of the abandoned Packard Automobile Factory.


[By Albert duce (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

I hope to have the opportunity to visit the city and explore creativity and meet people in the local community there, and make something to share. I hope perhaps the city can find a way to live with its ruins and draw from them without it having to be “blight”, and that vital communities, perhaps greener communities, can grow up within them. Some of the old towers around Grand Circus Park are being redeveloped at this time. And this is all the context of positive news from “Detroit” the automobile industry.


[By Andrew Jameson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

In the meantime, there certainly are plenty of cultural opportunities. The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). We have been shadowing the artist Mark Di Suvero throughout this series, and the DIA has two of his works, including an older piece Tom made primarily from wood. Music of Detroit is of course legendary. I have a fondness for quite a lot of classic Motown, much of which was done before they moved – I tend to think it works best in minor keys or when the overall sound is a bit more melancholy than when it is at its most bouncy and upbeat, but that is perhaps just me. Detroit also has a place in the history of popular electronic music. To me, these are not as disparate as others might think, particularly when one considers the harmony. (On this note, I would also enjoy hearing suggestions of music in the comments.)


But it is time to get back on the road. We can head northwest from Detroit on I-96 to Lansing, the state capital. For those like me who are amused by highway trivia, in Lansing, I-96 and I-69 meet, and even run concurrently for a brief period of time. I think this only place where there is such a mirror-image concurrency (as I-87 and I-78 in New York actually never meet). A spur I-496 turns off into the center of Lansing, with the state capital building to one side.


[Criticalthinker at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

If from Detroit we head north on I-75, we pass through Flint (of Michael Moore fame) and then further away from the Great Lakes that define the state’s geography and into the center of the lower peninsula. But I-75 is also the main highway connection to the Upper Peninsula over the Mackinac Bridge.


[By Jeffness at en.wikipedia. Later version(s) were uploaded by Sam at en.wikipedia. (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons]

North of the bridge, we can switch to US 2 which hugs the shore of Lake Michigan on the southern side of the peninsula. But we can also head inward on M-28, from which we can approach the northern shore along Lake Superior, traveling by many picturesque parks such as Tahquamenon Falls and Pictured Rocks.


[By Attila Nagy (anagy) (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]


[By MJCdetroit [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

M-28 continues on to Marquette, the largest city in the Upper Peninsula even though its population is around 21,000. It is home to Northern Michigan University and the Superior Dome, the largest wooden dome in the world.


[By Bobak Ha’Eri (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons]

In researching this article, I came across the blog Michigan Architecture. This site’s author is a gradulate of Northern Michigan University and is still based in Marquette. I recommend checking out her blog and seeing some of her interesting photograph of unexpected places around the state.

We conclude in the northernmost part of Michigan, Isle Royal. It is far north within Lake Superior, and indeed closer to Minnesota and Canada than it is to the rest of Michigan. It has an odd geography, basically a series of parallel ridges sticking up from the lake.

The middle of the island is a lake, Siskiwit Lake. It is trippy to have a large lake in a large island in a larger lake.

But it gets better. When nearby Moose Flats pond is full, Moose Boulder becomes the largest island in the largest lake in the largest island in the largest lake in the world! I will leave readers to ponder this…

Fun with Highways: Florida

We begin our tour on US 1 in Coral Gables, where it is known as the South Dixie Highway. I was actually in a pub along here on Election Night 2004, watching the results with friends and colleagues from the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC). For the most part, the election was quite disappointing – and we didn’t even get to enjoy a controversial Florida result to experience first-hand. So after a night of beers and commiseration, we turned our attention back to the conference itself, and to points north. Heading up US 1 towards Miami, we come to the rather unassuming freeway ramp that marks the start of I-95, the main north-south highway along the east coast. It’s a modest beginning for a such a major road. I-95 is an elevated urban highway through downtown Miami, as is the spur I-395 which took us over the city to the MacArthur Causeway and onto Miami Beach as A1A, one of the more oddly numbered highways in the country.

In Miami Beach, A1A continues as Collins Avenue, though the Art Deco district of the South Beach neighborhood.

[Photo by wyntuition on flickr. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).]

The Art Deco architecture of many of the area’s buildings dates back to the 1920s. One see a certain modernist quality in it, with the details of traditional architectural ornament reduced to simple shapes, but unlike mid-century modernism, such ornament (albeit more abstract) remains. The design of the buildings, the bright colors and the neon lighting are all part of the neighborhood’s character. This was a fun place for food and drink, and to access the beach (it is Miami Beach, after all). The most notable thing about beaches in Florida is that the water is warm, even into the evening. For someone who has lived near beaches in northern California, actually going into the water like this is a bit of a novelty.

The next day I ventured out on my own using public transit into Miami, primarily using the elevated rail line. I stopped at Calle Ocho (8th Street) and walked its length through the heart of of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The street carries the final section of US 41 towards downtown Miami. I think it was most curious to explore it because of my experience a few years earlier in “Big Havana” (i.e., in Cuba). Probably the main visual feature of the street were the frequent rooster statues along the side, including this somewhat “patriotic” specimen:

By the time I had gotten to downtown, where US 41 terminates at US 1., it had begun to rain. I did make it as far as Bayfront Park where I came upon this sculpture.

North of Miami, I-95 enters the Golden Glades Interchange along with Florida’s Turnpike, FL 826, US 441, and FL 9. As one can see in this photo, it is quite a tangled mess.


[Click to enlarge.]

From here, one can continue north on I-95 along the coast, or veer inland towards Orlando on the Turnpike. We will continue north on I-95, which brings us to Cocoa Beach. This is beach where I first experienced Florida’s atlantic coast as a child, the water, the sand, the seashells. Of course, the reason we stayed here was that it is part of Florida’s “Space Coast” and quite close to Cape Canaveral.

The epicenter of the American space program loomed large in the imagination – even though the moon landings were long over, space was still a powerful draw and the vehicles, structures and devices that made space travel possible were quite exciting to see up close and could even mask the fact that so much of this technology was on the edge and quite inaccessible to most of us. In that sense, space has never really entered into our lives the way computer technology (which also started as remote and rarified) has done so. That is a bit sad. Despite all the joking about a certain presidential candidate’s recent “moon base” proposal, I have to admit I wish we were more ambitious again about expanding into space. We never really solved the problem of efficiently getting into orbit, and thus haven’t been able to make it truly route and accessible. There are those working on this problem, on the Space Coast and elsewhere, but that is a topic for another time.

As one continues up the coast towards Daytona Beach, I-95 meets I-4, which heads westward and southward through the center of the state. It crosses Florida’s turnpike just south of Orlando and just next to the Walt Disneyworld Resort. Everyone knows Disneyworld. I had last been there as a teenager. EPCOT center was visually interesting (in terms of the buildings and structures), although it was already quite “retro” when it was completed in the 1980s. And the rides were not particularly compelling. I can only imagine it seems very dated now, but that could add to its visual charm.


[Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA-3.0-us (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons]

It would be interesting to photograph. But perhaps as interesting from a photography perspective is another, now defunct, theme park just down the road. Splendid China, built and sponsored by the Chinese government, was a theme park that featured scale models of famous Chinese landmarks, including among others a miniature Great Wall. The park was never popular and closed in 2003. Since then, it has fallen into disrepair and is a frequent target of vandalism. I only found out about it as a result of a 2009 exhibition in San Francisco that included photographs by Thomas Cheng documenting the decay.


[Thomas Chang. Great Wall. Splendid China Theme Park, Orlando, Florida.
Image courtesy of the CCC online gallery. Click image to enlarge.]

I-4 continues southwest towards Tampa Bay, crossing I-75. I-75 is another major north-south national highway, and south of Tampa it largely follows along Florida’s “left coast.” It does, however, abruptly turn and become and east-west highway at the northern edge of the Everglades. This is the famous Alligator Alley. Along this section of I-75 is the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, home to the critically endangered Florida panther. There are perhaps around 200 left.

The highway cuts through the panther’s habitat, but the rebuilt version includes passageways underneath for panthers to travel safely. It also facilities the movement of other wildlife. Of course, one does find alligators along the highway.

Returning to the beginning point of our virtual tour, one can travel south on US 1 to the southern tip of mainland Florida, where it becomes the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys. The highway links together a series of bridges and causeways through the keys.


[Averette at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

Some of the structures of this beast were part of an older railroad, and have since been replaced. But old sections remain.


[By Elkman (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

US 1 eventually comes into Key West. It makes a final right turn onto Whitehead Street, passing by the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Among the current residents of the home and museum are “Hemingway’s Cats”, who are descended from the author’s cats and many of whom are polydactyl with extra toes in their paws.


[Averette at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.]

Hemingway was quite fond of these cats, and the museum has become a permanent home for them – we of course hope it stays that way.

Only a few blocks away, US 1 ends. This “end” assembly with Mile 0 marker is probably one of the more photographed ones in existence.


[Photo by CedarBendDrive on flickr. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)]

It probably gets stolen quite a bit, too.

Fun with Highways: I-85, I-75 and I-20 in Atlanta

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these:

This is the interchange of I-85, I-75 and I-20 in Atlanta, GA. No personal significance, though I do like how the incredibly complex curved shapes are bounded by the very rectangular city streets.

Of course, the combination of curved forms and rectangular geometry is not too uncommon here at CatSynth.