Urban Ruins and the High Line Next Door

Chuck Wolfe suggests we all have the inspiration within us to envision how to remake our cities--from the conjecture of a Seattle restauranteur about Seattle's monorail to neighborhood examples of "we used this before, let's use it again".

May 26, 2013, 7:00 AM PDT

By Charles R. Wolfe @crwolfelaw


As part of a continuing series in Crosscut, Wolfe uses the foil of New York's High Line linear park to explain the role of vestiges of times gone by, beginning with a recent lunchtime suggestion by Seattle restauranteur Tom Douglas.

Douglas's suggestion? Abandon and green Seattle's monorail tracks--in the spirit of the High Line-- and provide walkable restaurant destinations along the way.

Drawing from landscape essayist J.B. Jackson, as well as his own book, Wolfe references the role of leftover structures in cities, and how, according to Jackson, they inspire us "to restore the world around us to something like its former beauty." 

He notes other urban rails-to-trails examples--former land uses and infrastructure that have become, intentionally or otherwise, "eerily similar" to what transit and walkability advocates call for today. In merging former rail lines and current bike and pedestrian paths, these examples "illustrate firsthand Jackson's reasons for championing accessible, nostalgic vestiges of an urban past".

Wolfe concludes:

As Jackson noted, "Ruins provide the incentive for restoration, and for a return to origins." So too, they inspire Tom Douglas, and maybe you, to find your own "High Line.” Which is often just next door.

Thursday, May 23, 2013 in Crosscut

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