Some thoughts about the development of linear parks from Catherine:
Contributors to this blog have commented in the past on the fascinating development of the concept of the linear park in various sites around the world, where space is very limited. Many, but not all, use obsolete railway infrastructure. Such infrastructure – stations, viaducts etc – are expensive to remove, and their demolition can be environmentally harmful. Why not reuse, recycle, refurbish, find another use for them? The popularity of these sort of developments is much in evidence at the moment.
The beautiful 19th-century Vincennes railway viaduct in Paris’s 12th arrondissement became disused in 1969 and was successfully refurbished and reformed as the world’s first elevated park, and is now known as the Promenade Plantee. One of the most famous linear parks is the remarkable High Line in New York City, which has transmogrified an old elevated railway of the city’s rust belt into a thing of beauty; its first section opened in 2009.
The three-mile elevated path, called the Bloomingdale Trail, in Chicago, allows bikers and pedestrians to travel to work through a section of Chicago’s northwest side. In Dallas, Klyde Warren Park is built right over a section of freeway, and in Hamburg, Germany, the Deckel park is being constructed over a hellish autobahn. There are ambitious plans for an Underline in Miami, transforming the underutilized land below Miami’s MetroRail.
Perhaps the most spectacular concept is the NYC Lowline, which relies on solar technology and remote skylights to bring light to an abandoned “trolley terminal” underground. Many difficult technical challenges have not dampened enthusiasm for this concept. New Yorkers are tough and smart; if they want plants to photosynthesise underground, that is what they shall have.
The Dutch are also working with ingenuity and energy on the Hofbogen in Rotterdam, and, nearer home, the very pretty Middlewood Way is a haven of tranquillity, blossom, birds, frogs and little ponds.
There is so much innovation and creative thinking that it seems scarcely possible that new ground could be broken in this area, if you will excuse the execrable pun. But that is happening in Singapore. There the “Line of Life” will traverse the country. The former cross-country train line spans the entire territory of Singapore, from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station on the south to Malaysia’s border on the north. It was built in the colonial period, to bring rubber and tin to the coast.
The contract for this work has been awarded to the architectural firm Nikken Sekkei, who describe it as follows:
“Lines of Life sets out a vision for a seamless public space, the preservation and reintegration of existing green areas and a relaxed extension of modern life. The proposal devises a strategy of design criteria and objectives to make the Rail Corridor inspiring, accessible, comfortable, memorable, eco-friendly and growing/evolving, as it “stitches the Nation with Lines of Life” , not just from north to south, but from west to east as well, and weaves the communities on both sides into the life of the rail corridor by providing a continuous high quality public space adding to the high quality of life in Singapore, as well as acting as a catalyst to development and community bonding”.
The “line of life” will have twelve access points and amenities like toilets, bicycle rental facilities, resting points, and showers, will be provided at various places. A tall tower will be built to create a look out point over Singapore’s Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and there will be an area for open –air movies and exercise sessions. Historically significant buildings like the Tanjong Pagar railway station will be preserved.
More details are available here: http://ow.ly/WPxhQ
Let’s hope this interesting idea comes to fruition. If it does, it is almost guaranteed to be spotlessly clean, as Singapore has draconian litter laws.
Such parks are not static, traditional places. They do not present themselves as being semi-rural retreats or havens within a busy metropolis. They literally cross boundaries. They remain essentially ways to somewhere else, and resist being a discrete destination. They promote a more vital experience of landscape. They have no need to conform to the historical and accepted or cultivated paradigm of the urban park. Their existence was made possible by large industrial machines and workplaces, which have now vanished and simultaneously created a new form of place. The possibility of being able to go to urban places without struggling along a horrible road is a very intriguing one, creating true connectivity between diverse neighbourhoods, and perhaps creating a more cohesive urban identity.