Case Study - Cars and Driving as Seen Through Film

The book by Iain Borden, Drive: Journeys through Film, Cities and Landscapes (Reaktion, 2013), draws together new insights alongside other observations of automobile driving made by earlier commentators (e.g. Lefebvre and Virilio), investigating how different kinds of driving, at different speeds and on different kinds of road, produce distinct encounters with cities and architecture and, hence, also produce similarly distinct social cultural experiences. In particular, the book undertakes an extensive exploration of films, videos and other moving images in order to explore the cultural meanings of driving as a spatial experience. It argues that different intersections of speeds, roads, automobiles and histories produce four different kinds of political and cultural productions of space: 30 mph, and the cognitive mapping of city streets; 55 mph, and the tourist and existential experience of the countryside; 70 mph, and the contemplative experience of motorways; and 100 mph, and the risk-danger of accelerated real and virtual speeds.

Underlying the project is an engagement with current debates about car-usage, arguing that the role of the private car cannot be simply replaced by improved forms of public transport without first understanding, and responding to, the various pleasures and experiences offered by automobile driving. The politics of architecture and urban space is thus seen as a complex intersection of historically-layered and recently-received experiences, ideologies, cultural representations, urban spaces and architectures, and thus as a condition which cannot - or should not - be reduced to purely functional or economic considerations.

Drive was shortlisted for the 2013 RIBA President's Award for Outstanding University-Located Research.