I know a few of the folk who work at Lahz Nimmo Architects. We have a common passion for words. And you might say architecture=building+words. Take a bicycle underpass beneath an expressway-era piece of traffic engineering, add some coreten steel, then LOTS of arty archi type speak (I especially like the repeated use of the word “deference” in the architects’ statement), and you have a bicycle underpass, raised to the level of architecture. Australia’s national capital deserves no less, and neither should cyclists endure infrastructure designed by crude engineers, with none of this kind of lovin’.
From the design statement: “[t]he curving geometry of the path gives way to a tangential line that frames a view directly to the Carillon.” Note how techniques of the picturesque can be applied to any kind of moving spectator. Gilpin saw landscape from his boat. Lahz Nimmo have designed a cyclescape, to be viewed from a bike. From the cyclist’s arcing, leaning, speeding perspective, the so-called “deferential wall” (there’s that word again!) will reveal itself at just the right speed to be, well, interesting. The wall’s own arching and leaning, could be lost on an ever-upright pedestrian. Having to walk by it, let’s be honest my sweets, would be chronically boring—as walking anywhere in Canberra is deadly, at least for those of us not yet lobotomized by public servitude. Better to view Canberra at the speed of a CAD fly-through, and how better to do that, than on a bike?
But what looks best of all, from a cyclist’s perspective, is the architect’s ironic response to the cloverleaf car thingo above. Even though this piece of car crap is earmarked for future removal, the new bicycle path will take cues from its geometry. Are we meant, therefore, to read this underpass as some kind of preemptive eulogy, to vehicular infrastructure? I hope so. I would find that a gas. And when the cloverleaf has been demolished, should we then read this bike track, shaped like a cloverleaf, but no longer passing beneath one, as yet another Canberran memorial, to senseless waste in our nation’s past? That deferential wall could be faced with black granite, baring the names of motor accident victims.