2017 Annual WASLA Conference

Spokane Convention Center, April 21, 2017
One Day, Dynamic Sessions, Ultimate Location



4:30-5:30 PM
Magic Highway? Did Disney Get It All Right or Steer Us Terribly Wrong?
(Highway History and the Role of Landscape Architects in Moving US Forward)


Highways have played an influential role in the shape of American cities—fostering economic growth and efficient transport of people and goods, but also damaging human health, ecological function, community cohesion, personal safety, and the character of the places where we live. How did highways happen? What was the role of landscape architects in highway development? Using Walt Disney’s 1958 film Magic Highway: USA as a point of departure, we’ll look through a number of historic lenses, including instructional videos, promotional publications, governmental policies and case studies to understand the optimism, rhetoric and agendas that drove highway building. We will inventory and evaluate current strategies, such as the autonomous car and solar roadway panels, and ask what will Magic Highway: The Sequel look like? This session takes a lighthearted, yet substantive approach to the history of highway design to help inform decision making in moving and shaping our future cities.

Lead Speaker:

Elizabeth Umbanhowar

Speaker Bio:

Elizabeth Umanhowar, PLA, ASLA, LEED AP
Elizabeth Umbanhowar is a practicing landscape architect with a focus on large-scale public infrastructure, nonmotorized transportation planning, urban design, public involvement, and habitat restoration. She currently serves as a lecturer at the University of Washington, where she teaches lecture and studio courses focused on design process, tactical urbanism, large-scale infrastructure, and how art can be employed as a catalyst for community dialogue and exploring time, the body and city form. 

Learning Objectives:
  • Examine the patterns of development of major transportation systems in the US, and particularly highway design 
  • Explore the role of landscape architects in designing highway systems historically and focus on future opportunities to shape/shift transportation movements
  • Discuss important case studies to understand the importance of history in making sound choices for future transportation technologies and networks
  • Inventory new and proposed strategies and technologies for future highways




Where History Meets Nature

Spokane Convention Center
Spokane, WA