Rules of the Road

Connecting Chicago to Underutilized Freeway Infrastructure Zones.

Using qualities other than speed and commerce to generate new urban forms

Rules of the Road explores the morphology of the Federal Highway System and its impact on the American landscape.

Previously the job of the highway was to create speed for the machines that run on it. We used parametric modeling to prioritize different qualities (such as pedestrian access to nature or the mitigation of noise and pollution) to generate alternative forms of highway that still produce efficient mobility while also creating new desirable spaces to live and work within existing infrastructure zones.

Chicago is a unique city to consider regional and local connectivity, given the history of commerce and the transportation of goods into, around, and out of the city. Rules of the Road reconceived the rules that dictate the forms of the highway system and investigated the rules that define great urbanism. The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 forever changed transportation, economic flows, connectivity, and the landscape of the US. The mechanical efficiency required for the success of the freeway was created through separation from everything that might slow it down. Unfortunately, the benefits of speed created by this separation are constantly at odds with the slower, finer-grained human concerns of dense urban cores. Rules of the Road engages the Federal, Fordist logic of the freeway with the requirements of a post-Fordist city to propose urban design strategies that mitigate environmental, social, and formal concerns with an architecture that engages underutilized freeway infrastructure zones.


The existing highway was parametrically modeled to understand the existing rules that produced the current form.

Slopes of earth, turning radii related to car speed, and percentage of inclines are all rules used to define highway interchanges. Heights of buildings related to width of streets and floor area ratio all determine different forms of urbanism. Parametric modeling allowed us to dynamically redefine these rules, relationships, and parameters to produce new forms. What felt like strict rules with few outcomes became malleable, able to produce previously unexplored potential through multiple iterations. Using criteria other than speed and capital optimization allowed us to visualize new infrastructure zones with adjacent buildings and urban density as alternate possibilities that could benefit multiple constituencies beyond drivers.


This work on Chicago was presented as part of the ‘Research on the City Exhibition’ at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Liberty Annex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Karl Daubmann did subsequent work applying similar logic in Detroit.

Rules of the Road received a 2016 American Institute of Architects Michigan Award (unbuilt category). The jury commented, “This innovative and well-researched project tackles the nationwide problem of the wasteland of freeway interchanges in the inner city.”



2016 American Institute of Architects Michigan Honor Award (unbuilt category).

The American Institute of Architects Michigan holds an Honor Awards Celebration annually and established its awards program to bring to public attention the value and importance of architectural excellence and to recognize those whose notable achievements encourage all to make excellence in architecture the standard.


Date: 2014
Location: Research on the City Exhibition, Liberty Annex, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Client: Self-initiated research project

Design: 2013-2014
Completed: Fall 2014

This project was made possible by a Research on the City grant from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan

Karl Daubmann (DAUB)
Cézanne Charles (rootoftwo)
John Marshall (rootoftwo)
Assisted by: Patrick Ethen, Qetuwrah Reed, Ryan Goold, Claire Matucheski

Dimensions: 30′

Media: Printed vinyl.


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