Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Gabion Wall to Quiet the Baleful Keening of Millions of Withering Souls

I have mentioned and posted photos of Kevin Berry's "Tributary Wall" sculpture / gabion basket and rusty fish noise wall before. Noise walls are a necessary evil in an automobile-centered city. Along with rubberized asphalt on the freeways, they damp down the noise of tires on pavement, engines on the wind-up or wind-down, and the baleful keening of millions of souls slowly withering away locked up inside small metal boxes. This one along Goldwater Boulevard, along with the section of the Loop 101 which features "The Path Most Traveled", and also "Wall Cycle to Ocotillo" along the 51 freeway, show that noise walls don't have to be immense blank barriers. (But note that one section of the lizard wall along the 101 has to come down, to make room for more cars and a higher wall. Progress!) 

I don't think the still photos really do justice to the flow of Berry's wall. So today on my bike commute I took the video above to show one view of what it looks like from a bicycle. The sidewalk is pretty bumpy through there, so until I hack together a steadycam rig, that's about as steady as I can make it.

And as long as we're going to be erecting walls to quiet the baleful keening of cars and their drivers, we might as well make the walls pleasant to look at. I realize that pretty walls cost money. Drivers should pay for them, with taxes and tolls. Why not just make them out of bare cinder blocks, mile after mile of blank gray walls burning in the noonday desert sun? Because no matter how tall you built those monstrosities, the baleful keening they would raise from the drivers in their anomy and boiling rage would roll over the buildings and hills like a roiling haze of petrochemical smog. You know, like the real smog they raise. Except more baleful. Get up. Go ride.


  1. Actually, JRA, ya don't need a steady-cam: that is EXACTLY how the walls look when yer riding by! It's even jumpier if yer riding a bike without any suspension, like a road bike or a 'bent.

  2. Did you also know that noise walls cause drivers to slow down? I imagine a pleasant one might cause them to slow down even more.

  3. BlueCat, it's true, I tried it twice, thinking the first time maybe I was getting the shakes or something, then realizing it's mainly the wavy sidewalk and expansion joints.

    Steve that's an interesting question: do pleasant noise walls calm traffic more than the the unpleasant ones? I guess one built across the lanes of traffic would calm it the most...


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