Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
Photographer Peter Andrew has been hanging out of planes to take pictures of our concrete ribbons.
Highway interchanges just look better from the sky.
"When you're driving," says Toronto-based photographer Peter Andrew, "They're like a bunch of bridges. But from above, they look like spaghetti, or spiders."
Leaning out of a propeller plane on a tight turn - watch him work in this video - Andrew shoots the Interstate Highway System from above, releasing clovers, diamonds, spaghetti and spiders from the asphalt links. What began as a tour through Google Earth has now become an airborne routine. Andrew has now been on nearly 10 such aerial highway-hunting expeditions, and is heading to the Atlanta area soon.
"Each major city has something like it, and they all have their own personality," he says. What stands out in his blueprint-like photos is not the presence of a cookie-cutter design but the shifting displays of variation and symmetry. To understand the photos beyond their abstract beauty, the viewer must tease out the logic of the interchange, which changes from one to the next.
Andrew, who lives in Toronto, has been reading Rayner Banham, the British architectural historian who wrote the 1971 book The Architecture of Four Ecologies, an ode to Los Angeles. Banham called the L.A. freeway system "one of the greater works of man," and dubbed the interchange of the 10 and the 405 a "work of art."
Here are some of Andrew's photos from around the U.S and Canada.
All images courtesy of Peter Andrew.