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An In-Depth Look at One of America's Preeminent Landscape Architects

The Atlantic's Eric Jaffe centers on James Corner's latest work in Cleveland's Public Square, and goes to describe his other well-known projects, including the High Line, and transformations of public parks and urban spaces throughout the country.
June 29, 2015, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Few people have done more in recent years to breathe life into America’s dead or dying public spaces," writes Jaffe. "Best known for designing the High Line in New York, Corner has been called a landscape 'rock star' and mentioned as a modern successor to Frederick Law Olmsted, the visionary behind Central Park."

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Corner, who hails from just outside industrial Manchester, England, moved to the United States in the 1980s to study urban design at the University of Pennsylvania. As a prime example of his work, many cite not the High Line but Freshkills Park, an ongoing 2,200-acre landfill transformation on Staten Island that began in 2003 and is celebrated for turning a true wasteland into a place that will be not only safe but also attractive to visitors.

Jaffe points to "Santa Monica, San Francisco, Seattle, Brooklyn, Memphis, and Chicago (as) just some of the places that have turned to his practice, James Corner Field Operations, to revive their urban parks." Add redesigning Minneapolis' Nicollet Mall to the list, though Planetizen noted at least one critic of his design for the downtown pedestrian and transit mall.

"City planners are increasingly realizing that investment in public spaces, many neglected for decades, can provide a competitive edge in luring new businesses and residents—especially young creative types—to the urban core," writes Jaffe. Nowhere is that more true than the HIgh LIne - one of the reasons other cities want to replicate its success. Cleveland is no exception, notwithstanding its recent revitalization and downtown population growth.

Public Square “has been our front yard for over a century,” Ann Zoller, the head of land Studio, a local design partner working with Corner’s firm, says. “We really felt that if you had all this development but you still had a dysfunctional Public Square, the city was never going to thrive as it could.”

Jaffe goes on to describe Corner's plans for the historic Public Square that acts as transit hub as well as projects in other cities. "Construction started this spring on Corner’s final design, which is estimated to cost $32 million," he adds.

Planetizen readers may be more familiar with Jaffe's articles that appear in The Atlantic's sister publication, CityLab, that are regularly posted in Planetizen.

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Published on Saturday, June 27, 2015 in The Atlantic Magazine
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