The Hilarious 1960s Vision for the Underbelly of a Houston Highway

Dapper guys in suits hanging out under a Houston highway. This is what the Houston Arts Commission envisioned for the Pierce Elevated Freeway in the 1960s. Imag via Kinder Institute
Dapper guys in suits and mod ladies hang out under a Houston highway in this concept the Houston Arts Commission envisioned for the Pierce Elevated Freeway in the 1960s. Image by Houston Arts Commission via Kinder Institute

Ah, the best laid plans. As Texas DOT considers tearing down the Pierce Elevated Freeway on the east side of downtown Houston, it’s instructive to look back at what people were thinking when they made this eyesore.

Kyle Shelton at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research shares these hilarious drawings from the late 1960s that depict how happening the space below the highway was supposed to be. The drawings were commissioned, Shelton tells us, in response to a local architect who had written that life under the freeway would be “psychologically intolerable.” (He was, of course, right.)

Check out this other lively scene: a playground.

Image 5-2

Shelton writes:

After studying the 1.3 mile long, half-block wide area, the commission concluded that the space was ideal for “playgrounds, plazas, and parking” and included a number of illustrations depicting children playing basketball and office workers enjoying a break beneath six lanes of traffic.

But the only part of that grand vision that came to pass was the parking.

Here’s a somewhat dated shot of the highway doing a pretty awesome job of repelling people.

Photo: TexasFreeways.com
Photo: TexasFreeways.com

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