I was pleased to be able to participant in 'Above. Degrees of Elevation' an international workshop at the University of Edinburgh on the 12th May 2016. It was a stimulating meeting and really well conceived intellectually by the organisers Susanne Schregel, Nina Engelhardt and Nicoletta Asciuto. I learnt a lot, particularly in regards to representations of the 'vertical' in different humanities and English literature contexts.
I gave a historically focused, highly illustrated, presentation enitled "Verticality and urban mobility: Learning lessons from past visions of elevated transport systems in the post-war city". The abstract is below and you can browse the slides if you're interested.
The space above crowded city streets has long been alluring to planners as a solution to the problem of urban mobility. In the post-war decades in particular there were many visions propagated for a revolution in transport exploiting verticality to separate out modes of lateral movement. Schemes were proposed for elevated highways carving through city centres, futuristic monorails running overhead and pedestrian decks connecting buildings, along with prospects of helicopters hopping between rooftop landing pads. Using empirical examples from Manchester this talk will consider the potential of some of transport plans, both built and unbuilt, and what lessons might be learnt from their failure to transform urban mobility. What might the modes of failure reveal, in deeper sense, about the possibilities and problems of vertical urbanism in terms of (1) freedom and disconnection, (2) hierarchy and inequality, (3) representation and spectatorship, (4) cost, risks, and environmental externalities?