Anthony Acciavatti taught a studio at the Rhode Island School of Design last year in which students focused on rethinking rest areas along I-95, the highway that runs nearly 2,000 miles along the East Coast from Florida to Maine.
Acciavatti’s concept was that those weird places where we now get out of our cars to use the toilets and buy coffee should be “a space for design.” One student, Bige Zirh, appropriated the idea of a ha-ha wall, a device found in English landscaping in which a gentle slope and a steep ditch are combined to hide unsightly fences and give the illusion of a continuous landscape. Zirh’s “topographic shifts” are intended to make the highway simply disappear. Another student, Eunice Byun, began to add urban density to cloverleaf intersections, inserting big-box stores and a bus terminal for the employees of a nearby casino, creating what she calls “an intermodal hub of infrastructures.” The most revolutionary thing Acciavatti’s class did was print its renderings on 36,000 postcards, which were distributed for free at I-95 rest areas. The cards did prompt a few queries from the local Department of Transportation but mainly served as an early warning to drivers that their familiar pit stops might someday grow up to be real places.