Below a highway overpass that has split a neighborhood in the Dutch city of Zaanstadt for decades, you can now find a supermarket, soccer fields, a skatepark, a fishmonger and a florist, a basketball court, and a car park. There is even a marina.
Designed by NL Architects, presumably with input from the local government and the public, the “intervention provides a quick solution to re-establishing the connection between the two parts of the divided township whilst also regenerating a space that had become dead, literally and symbolically in the shadow of the flyover.”
Moreover, this was the Joint Winner of the 2006 European Prize for Urban Public Space, a biennial competition organized by several architecture institutions.
A similar urban intervention in nearby Amsterdam is West 8's Carrasco Square, whose vacuity and hilarious desire lines inscribed on its neatly drafted geometry only make me wonder if letting it be inhabited by the homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes and their tricks, the idled youths, migrant workers, hardy native grasses, and landscape architecture PhD candidates on so-called field research would simply be a better use of public space.
In the U.S. there is Louisville's Waterfront Park, designed by Hargreaves Associates. This is the Great Lawn. The same office was also commissioned to do a temporary installation for SFMOMA's Revelatory Landscapes exhibition, taking as their site the intersection of Interstate 280 and Highway 87 — “a forbidding, yet somehow common landscape.”
In Chicago, there's the McCormick Tribune Campus Center at IIT.
Finally, from the master of messy public spaces, Walter Hood, there is Splash Pad Park in Oakland, California. Although you don't get to see much of the design in the website provided, just imagine the teeming masses you see in the photos buying their groceries, cooling off in the fountain, displaying a bit of civil disobedience, or simply minding their kids and walking the dog are doing so underneath a heavily trafficked highway.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Walter Hood's finished website now include photos of Splash Pad Park.