Over head is a fascinating and quite epic modernist concrete structure.
A giant series of pillars support an impermeable network of straight lines and perfect curves seemingly floating beneath the clear sky, and transmitting a constant white noise.
Meanwhile, the space beneath the junction is a pedestrian access walkway connecting to a canal towpath.
A post-industrial space, preserved for weekend leisure, filled with thriving nature and slowly running water.
In the shade of another century, ducks paddle along oblivious to the motorway workers.
Last summer I spent an afternoon under the Gravelly Hill Interchange,
a location far better known as Birmingham’s most famous landmark, Spaghetti Junction.
The Gravelly Hill motorway interchange, constructed in 1969, and inaugurated on
the 24 May 1972, made famous and well described by its nickname Spaghetti Junction,
is a junction of the M6 motorway where it meets the A38(M) Aston Expressway in the
Gravelly Hill area of Birmingham, England.
At ground level, the place gains a certain aura from the physical and temporal
disconnections between what is above and what is under, and what has been more
recently constructed and what has remained.
All along the construction of the concrete interchange, the pillars supporting
the flyover were carefully positioned to enable horse-drawn canal boats to continue
passing beneath the interchange without fouling their tow ropes. The older social
environment was not simply dismissed as a limitation to modernist ambition,
an attempt was clearly made here to reconcile old and new transport technology,
so that both could happily move along at their own pace together.
During my walk I noticed bits and pieces of other gates. Some of them dismantled
or placed to the side of the path, as if they were from a time that preexisted any
human attempts to reconstruct the landscape. The most intact gate, still holding a
position in the middle of the path, stopping bikes, runners, walkers and their dogs
from charging ahead, was a robust and comforting shape. The type of structure that you
would easily sit on without fear. Passing through the gate forced me to see the world
around me from different angles. It acted on me as a kind of viewing point, a structure
The gate was a sculptural metal-tube form, an element made and placed by man as
a way to better organize the general use of the natural landscape. It belongs neither
to the elevated motorway structure or to the horse-drawn canal boat. It maintains a
break with the future, a temporal pause that protects a dedicated walking path and
the idea that some things can be done slowly. It encourages you to see and appreciate
a landscape far too easily ignored or forgotten.
turn, stay left