The demolition of I-195: Absences and presences

Posted by Ian on Feb 10, 2010 in blog | 2 Comments

Last week, I got out of the office and went out to the site of the old Wickenden Bridge that was just demolished as part of the I-Way project at DOT. I was interested in experiencing the place but also documenting the residues and traces of the highway, the mural art and the shelter that was a place of rest for so many homeless over the years.

Just as I was taking photographs of the now monolithic (almost triumphal arch-like) bridge supports, I met a cyclist named Jim Bray who was heading up the closed on-ramp onto the disused stretch of I-195. Jim uses the closed highway everyday as a cycling route since now it’s the quickest and safest way to cycle to downtown.

The creative reuse of the disused 1950s highway really struck me, and I’ve since been thinking about the many things that this stretch of I-95 indexes – post-war America, baby boomers, Jack Kerouac, industrialisation, mobility, car culture, urban development, displacement, destruction, connectivity, transience… I walked most of the stretch of the highway and took photos of passing encounters, moments of inspiration, traces and detritus. The results are below.

Given the extensive documentation of the I-Way development project and the previous I-195 development in the 1950s by the DOT, this might be a great scenario for our class project. There are the online resources below, as well as extensive archives at the DOT’s offices (photographs, drawings, news clippings and 16mm films).

     DOT website on I-195:
     DOT website on the I-Way:
     DOT Podcasts on the I-Way project:
     DOT Ppt on the relocation of I-195:

An artist colleague, Fiona Hallinan may join us in this venture, working with us to create a new relational artwork using performative experience, locational sound, narrative and music to activate the presences and absences of the highway.

See more about Fiona’s work here:

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  1. Erin
    10 February 2010

    fascinating shots. i'm especially intrigued by the use of the bridge for bicyclists.

    while we're at it, two other links to posts about this bridge:

    1. a short video by residential properties, found through a friend:

    2. a few of my own photos of the murals, prior to the bridge deconstruction, posted in october to my personal blog:

  2. Ian
    14 February 2010

    Thanks for this Erin. I enjoyed your photos as well. I think this a really unique opportunity for us to put our theoretical discussions in class into practice. For example, I went down to the demolition site this Saturday, and I collected pieces of the demolished wall that had surviving bits of paint on them. There were very few to be found, so I suspect that either the bulk were taken by the DOT or by RISD undergraduates – something I will investigate further.

    I'll be bringing the bits into class to help us start talking about our class project as things are really coming together.

    I'd enjoy more immediate responses, thoughts and reflections about the scenario here, so keep 'em coming…


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