Producing the “Highway to Nowhere”: Social Understandings of Space in Baltimore, 1944-1974

Keywords: infrastructure, Baltimore, highways, Henri Lefebvre, social production of space


The “highway to nowhere” is a 1.32 mile fragment of an arterial expressway located in Baltimore, Maryland. This segment was designed to contribute to a proposed limited access highway system that was never constructed after years of activism, debate, and lawsuits. This article examines the history of the construction of this highway segment to suggest that conflicts over the design, sitting, and construction of infrastructure are fundamentally struggles over the definition and production of space. This analysis utilizes Henri Lefebvre’s triad of spatial production as an analytical framework to identify distinct spatial forms that surface during the process of infrastructure building. Utilizing this analytical framework may enrich the STS-based infrastructure inquiries by bringing to the surface the multiple forms of spatial production that structure system-building activities. In conclusion, I suggest that utilizing Lefebvre’s triad within studies of infrastructure surfaces important, and potentially transformative, local claims to space. Such claims are of renewed importance as cities across the US confront the segregationist histories of the built environment.

Author Biography

Amanda K. Phillips de Lucas, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Amanda K. Phillips de Lucas is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. She is currently investigating emerging practices of stakeholder governance in cities implementing green stormwater infrastructure. Amanda received her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech in 2018.


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01 Oct 2020
Research Articles