in Motion | A Dialogue on the Road

The authors tend to talk among themselves or allude to each other throughout this logbook.


“First: the insight: record is made for some reason, some use, some need; as yet unformulated at the time of its inception […] “Many forms of expression are available to us: sometimes it seems best –even necessary– to put impressions, ideas, into words… because sometimes we think in words.”

At first, in a kind of fully-motorway-innocence [we don’t even owned the Michelin motorways’ map] we established the following rule: A daily whereabouts, the obligation of not to leave the motorway between Paris and Marseille, and a book to write, which will help to incorporate all the scientific descriptions of topographical, climatic and phenomenological issues to make it a serious book and in the other hand, a book in some ways parallel, following the rules that we would write while gambling and establish new modalities.

“This way, ‘The eye on the road’, is a record of a special recognition by a mind trained to give form; as ‘A Diary of a Passengers’s View of Movement in a Car’ it can be given as a cultural food parcel.”

… a red Volkswagen which is a water tank, a seat that converts into a bed, and we added a radio, typewriter, books, red wine, soup cans and paper cups, swimsuit if its needed, a butane lamp and a heater, through which a tin can becomes lunch or dinner while listening to Vivaldi or write these pages.

“Usually a notebook has been carried in the Citroëns. In some period of car inhabitation we carried drawing books on the back floor, with the back ashtray full of pencil stubs and still in the early ‘seventies used to find an occassional passenger had put ash among the pencils.”



Stéphane discovered our drafts an contact-sheets of the trip. Carol, who knew his great talent as a draftsman, proposed him to become our cartographer ex post facto. Stéphane may not understand the Latin expression, but he just pulled out his pencils and his sketchbook, and began to imagine each whereabouts from our text, aloud explanations, anecdotes and photographs…

“When the main body of the Diary was complete –1972 or 1973 – some thought was given to ‘illustrating’ the emergent sensibility perceived. An ingredient of previous identifications of emergent sensibilities as to landscape has always included the ‘sketch’…”



Until the summer of 1978, oh pale and intrepid reader, we belonged to the race of mortals who take the highway for what it seems to be: a modern construction, highly developed which allows passengers trapped in their wheeled capsules to travel a route on a map easily verifiable and in most cases, at a minimum of time and with maximum security.

“These typical simple pleasure and dispersed family contacts are everyones’s freedom of the roads –you can get in your car and seemingly go wherever you want to in whatever order you chose; surely these possibilities – even if they are taken for granted – make us think differently as well as see differently.”

More important: the gradual alteration of the usual notion of highway, the substitution of the insipid and almost abstract functionality for a presence full of life and wealth: the people, high, episodes in more or less wooded scenery, successive events as a beloved theater scene only with us as spectators.

“… the road improved to motorway-standard undertakes a long dip in approaching this scenery and prepares to curve in a gentle right-hook to the rear of the landscape stage… four triangular posted-signs are suddenly sufficiently large in scale due to their position forwards of all specimen trees that for a moment or two, compose to be the darkest cut-out-tress in the stagey scene.”

We are just on the third day of travel and the usual parameters have given way over another kind of life in the highway.

“… mysteriously, other traffic appears around, as if a flow thickening by its own osmotic process…”



“The mobility that the car has given to everyone has helped to change our social patterns and, progressively, our social needs…”

What you have just read is a subversion of time, it is a dialogue between two books written on the road.

AS in DS: an eye on the road by Alison Smithson in 1982 [from the Diary written between 1972 – 1973]
Autonauts of the Cosmoroute by Julio Cortázar and Carol Dunlop [from the book written between May and June 1982]. Fragments translated to English by dpr-barcelona

[1] Citroën DS owned by Alison and Peter Smithson
[2] Fafner “the drac” owned by Julio Cortázar and Caroline Dunlop
[3] Drawing by Stéphane from the book “Los autonautas de la cosmopista”
[4] Drawing by Alison Smithson from the book “An eye on the road”
[5] A view on the road from London to Fonthill from the book “An eye on the road”
[6] Fafner “the drac” lost near Chanas from the book “Los autonautas de la cosmopista”


The automobile industry suffered big changes in the USA in the decade of the 60s, while the European makers adopted ever-higher technology, and Japan appeared as a serious car-producing nation. Within this context is not strange to discover the similarities between these books, both written “on the road” and recounting the everyday life of our flâneur in automobiles.

According to Venturi and Scott Brown, the new automobile –oriented form of the city demanded a different, dynamic form of representation. On the premise that urban space was primarily perceived by an observer moving in an automobile − that is, space is experienced in motion.


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