Andrew Cowen

The 6-lane route has no lack of storefronts or homes, but it's not a place you'd want to spend much time.

Sydney's Princes Highway is one of the major arterials for getting to and from the city center via the airport and the southern suburbs. But despite the "highway" in its name (and the airplanes landing at the nearby airport), the six-lane route has no lack of storefronts or homes alongside it.

That messy combination has long intrigued photographer Andrew Cowen. Cowen was first drawn to the roadway for its signage and architecture. But he's become increasingly fascinated with the area's history and evolution, eventually putting together a photo series titled, Princes Highway.

Cowen sees the roadway as a place that grew "out of years of no real planning," an area long inundated with big, colorful signs competing with other big, colorful signs for the attention of motorists. In some instances, Cowen tells us, the houses along the road "get in on the act," painting themselves in equally loud colors.

Despite these seemingly unappealing conditions, the Australian photographer has noticed a change. Princes Highway is losing its car repair shops and gas stations. An IKEA has since opened, and some of the street's older buildings are being renovated or demolished. The area's notorious signage culture disappearing with those changes. 

Now, Cowen sees his project as a document of what used to be. "People used to go to the Princes Highway to get a second-hand bonnet for their Datsun," he says. "Now they go out there to get a new cover for their couch or some timber venetian blinds." That's not to say it's turning into some sort of urban planner's dream. "There is virtually no one on the street because it's such an unpleasant environment," says Cowen. "I was an oddity being a pedestrian in this area."

All images courtesy Andrew Cowen

H/T Feature Shoot

H?

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A small accessory dwelling unit—known as an ADU—is attached to an older single-family home in a Portland, Oregon, neighborhood.
    Design

    The Granny Flats Are Coming

    A new book argues that the U.S. is about to see more accessory dwelling units and guides homeowners on how to design and build them.

  2. Environment

    Britain's Next Megaproject: A Coast-to-Coast Forest

    The plan is for 50 million new trees to repopulate one of the least wooded parts of the country—and offer a natural escape from several cities in the north.

  3. 1970s apartment complex in downtown Buffalo
    Equity

    The Last Man Standing in a Doomed Buffalo Housing Complex

    After a long fight between tenants and management, John Schmidt is waiting for U.S. Marshals to drag him out of Shoreline apartments, a Brutalist project designed by Paul Rudolph.

  4. The White House is seen reflected during a rainy day in Washington, D.C.
    POV

    The City That 'This Town' Forgot

    Washington, D.C., is home to a huge concentration of reporters. Why do they miss the stories happening in their own city?

  5. Police cars outside the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City
    Life

    The Great Crime Decline and the Comeback of Cities

    Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace, talks to CityLab about how the drop in crime has transformed American cities.