This is a quick survey of sorts in three parts. This is the first part.
Built in what used to be blighted industrial landscape severed from the urban fabric by rail lines and an elevated highway, Hargreaves Associates' Waterfront Park in Louisville, Kentucky is now a premier public open space. Once inaccessible, an absence and an abscess in the civic life of the city, the area now teems with activity. The centerpiece of the whole park, the 12-acre Great Lawn, runs under an 8-lane segment of Interstate 64 and then slopes gently down towards the river, providing that once missing link between the downtown area and the Ohio River. The Great Lawn also provides expansive views of the waters and the city, and unsurprisingly, it gets completely overtaken by crowds during major events. More tranquil areas can be found in the rest of the park, all of which are intimately tucked within meandering landforms that either mimic the flow of the adjacent river or the flow of traffic hovering above or both. Another major piece of the park will be an abandoned railroad bridge adapted to provide a bicycle and pedestrian crossing to the other side of the river. Rather than tearing it down, this infrastructural remnant will be treated as a sort of monumental public sculpture, a reminder of the city's industrial past.
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.
Developed in part through an open and interactive public design process overseen by NL Architects, A8ernA “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.”
Designed by the SWA Group, the Buffalo Bayou Promenade “connected Houston's downtown core to the river park to the west under and through a neglected and near impossible mess of freeways and bridges, adding 23 acres of parkland to Houston's inner city. The landscape architect's early visioning and then implementation converted a trash-soaked eyesore — intimidating to pedestrians and detrimental to flood control efforts — into 3,000 linear feet of urban park that provides a prominent gateway to downtown Houston.”
Spatial detritus, infrastructure, urban parks, theatrical lighting, floods and flood control, hydrologically responsive public open spaces — combine all of them together and you've got awesome.
The McCormick Tribune Student Center on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, is Rem Koolhaas's contrapuntal infill in Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's “immaculately modern desert.” The one-story building holds aloft an oval tube which encircles an elevated tracks. Not only does it muffle the noise from passing trains, it absorbs a disturbance, one which has for decades split campus life, separating student residences on one side from classrooms on the other side.
To be continued.