Travels in lounge space: placing the contemporary British motorway service area

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Austin, Samuel
  • Subject: NA

This thesis reads contemporary British motorway service areas as questions of place, and as instances of what I call ‘lounge space’, a space of transient consumption that conceals the power of the host. Motorways and service areas are sites where clear boundaries have been asserted, materially as well as theoretically, between local and national, traditional and modern, country and city, place and ‘non-place’. Through close readings of service area forms, details and materials in context, this thesis shows how such absolute distinctions cannot be maintained. Rather than instances of ‘non-place’ – Marc Augé’s term for spaces lacking social relations, history or identity – service areas show place as process: as never absolutely fixed and always dependent on interrelated material, socio-cultural and historical contexts. This is not to dissolve the differences between places, but to show how they are contested and the power relations involved. The thesis thus explores a notion of place informed by what Jacques Derrida calls ‘iterability’, a logic of irreducible contamination, of repetition with difference. \ud \ud Chapter 1 considers two typical recent service areas, Hopwood Park and Donington Park. It shows how boundaries of place are dissimulated and yet tightly policed, how allusions to ‘public’ space also recall the ‘private’ space of the home, and how an illusion of unlimited hospitality conceals the power of the host. By comparison, ‘independent’ operator Westmorland, the focus of Chapter 2, appears to be an exception. On one level, the company’s Tebay Services reclaim the roadside for the locality; on another, however, the sites, and the region they represent, become caught up in the cultures, forces and economies they claim to resist. Westmorland the company is conflated with Westmorland the place. As this ‘natural’ host offers an idyllic Lakeland refigured for the outsider’s consumption, it contests how and by whom that place is to be consumed.
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