In times like these, we need to critically examine the way we have designed in the past and how we can be more economically and environmentally sustainable in the future. For instance, what if developers had spent their money rehabilitating and revitalizing existing city centers rather than expanding development and creating suburban sprawl?
We cannot change the past, but as designers we have a unique opportunity to change our perspective and recognize the countless opportunities that exist to creatively design and build in ways that revive our existing infrastructure without the use of virgin materials and green sites.
One of the best examples of large-scale reclamation is the High Line. Built in the 1930s, this elevated train line ran freight traffic along Manhattan’s West Side and delivered supplies directly to factories and warehouses. By 1980, the High Line was shut down due to the increased use of interstates. For the 20 years that the line sat unoccupied, wild vegetation grew rampant through the tracks and the historic structure began to fall apart. After calls to demolish the rail line, neighborhood activists rallied for the preservation and reuse of the High Line as public open space. In 2002, the City Council approved the redevelopment of The High Line and a design competition was opened.
James Corner Field Operations won the design competition and turned this elevated train line into a park. His design philosophy for the project states, “Inspired by the melancholic, unruly beauty of the High Line, where nature has reclaimed a once-vital piece of urban infrastructure, the team retools this industrial conveyance into a post-industrial instrument of leisure, life, and growth.” A beautiful park was created above a bustling city on a structure that was going to be torn down and destroyed.
For more information go to the High Line. Historical Images of the High Line and it’s beginning transformation are below:
Images courtesy of the High Line.org