The organization of urban space accommodating the rapid movement of the automobile facilitates a kind of forgetting, through the act of driving, and creates a sense of containment, through the built environment itself. If this is so, how does this occur? What is the relationship between movement, memory, and containment? How do these kinds of material conditions reflect and reproduce the spatial segregation of different bodies? What are the implications of such spaces on the body and society, the body politic? Using Kansas City as a case study, these questions will be addressed in this project.
In the spring of 2010, twenty-three interviews were conducted with urban planners, architects, developers, consultants, real estate agents, civic leaders, and community organizations, all of whom were asked to geographically define downtown and discuss urban redevelopment in Kansas City. Downtown was often defined by the highways that surround it, and streets, cars, parking, driving, and transit were unavoidable topics of discussion. What are the implications of the prevalence of highways in urban space for the body, movement, engagement, and society?
I propose that as active, human agents orient to material boundaries in urban space, such as drivers on a highway, a sense of containment and passivity, even fear, is produced as boundaries are reproduced and reinforced. The rapid movement of bodies in cars on a highway produces detachment from urban space, and the people within that space. The highway as an object in urban space creates a boundary eliminating the possibility for social engagement, which creates a sense of containment, particularly in areas of the city divided by race. In public spaces downtown where diverse bodies do meet, bodily boundaries such as dress codes are implemented, also restricting social engagement. Whether through driving or dress codes, the individual is made to be aware of the body as an object in space, but it is when the body fades into the background that we are able to open up to and engage others.