Making Gritty Pretty
"The High Line serves as a prime example of a new kind of park taking shape in countries such as the United States, Germany, Mexico, and Canada - one that uses the abandoned infrastructure and artifacts of industry to create distinctive public green spaces. Where we once understood parks to be the manicured places of respite envisioned by legendary landscape architects like Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of Manhattan's Central Park, they increasingly reflect recent urban history, seeking to create a positive legacy for what were once polluting structures.
One of the reasons for this change is economic: it's typically less expensive to reinvent industrial ruins than to remove them. Another is that cities are simply running out of green space. 'With Central Park, the land was acquired when Manhattan's growth was still very much on the tip of the island; same pattern with Golden Gate Park in San Francisco,' says Julia Czerniak, director of the Upstate design centre at the Syracuse University School of Architecture, and co-editor of the book Large Parks. 'Now we're going back into cities and finding military bases or old factories, and cobbling together vacant land, typically brownfields,' she notes, referring to contaminated sites. It's not that landscape architects enjoy cleaning up degraded sites, says Czerniak - 'That's just what we get.'"