Ryann Ford took a 21.834 miles long route across 17 states of America to redescover and photograph the humble (an nostalgic) architecture of rest stops. These simple, silent and quirky architectural icons are indeed vanishing from the landscapes of the country losing the fight to commercial alternatives. The young photographer launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish a book about this memory lane journey on the road.
On one side drive-thrus at every exit and mega-sized travel centers offer car washes, wi-fi, grilled paninis and bladder-busting fountain-sized drinks. On the other fading roadside relics provide just toilets and tables but offer an oasis of green for relief, hospitality and nostalgia thanks to their historical significance, charm, local color, or unique architecture.
For some, what was seen and read at rest stops could be all that was known of a region’s historical, archeological, geological, or cultural significance. Many people these days only know of rest stops as a blur from the car window. Many don’t know their historical significance at all.
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Fast-food restaurants have homogenized the nation’s highways to the point where every place looks like every other place. They are more than just a place providing service to the public, they represent uniqueness in a world headed toward commercialization. Rest areas connect travelers to local places in a way that fast food restaurants, gas stations and truck stops cannot.
Interchange business, while also important to highway motorists, has become a homogenous collection of uniform structures that one encounters without significant variation in almost every part of the country. While rest areas were originally designed to provide only the basic amenities of parking, bathroom, and picnic table, developers soon found within them the opportunity to reconnect people with the places they were traveling though, to add some humanity back to interstate travel.
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Ryann Ford says: “We can all relate to rest stops and what they represent as social and architectural icons of Americana. To me though, they are disappearing waysides of memories, anticipation and mystery of what the next one down the road will look like, and lastly they are a relevant benchmark in an era of bygone leisure travel”.
“This project is an ongoing road trip of discovery and appreciation for what these rest stops represent. My need to systematically document them before they are gone forever was the sole purpose of my project”.
Photos: ©Ryann Ford.
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