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BY MARGARET SHAKESPEARE

A sophisticated stormwater system elevates Philadelphia’s Girard Avenue interchange.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Around the world, cities are demolishing, burying, or capping their elevated freeways, but an interstate in Philadelphia provides a possible alternative—one in which the highway stays up but connectivity, open space, and water quality are still prized. In redesigning three miles of Interstate 95 north of Center City Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation planned 27 acres of park and open space, and the first phase of the $1 billion project, due for completion by 2027, incorporates examples of green infrastructure. According to AECOM, the prime consultant on the project, landscape design and green infrastructure accounted for between 5 and 7 percent of the first phase’s total budget.

At the Girard Avenue Interchange, I-95 runs parallel to the Delaware River two blocks away. Rather than whisking stormwater runoff directly into the river, overtaxing an already burdened municipal system, or funneling a deluge into a rock pit, AECOM and other experts devised a treatment scheme of basins, weirs, bioswales, and rain gardens. Ten planted acres can capture the first inch of runoff (more…)

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BY NATE BERG

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The carving up of cities by expressways is still a civil rights problem, but it’s being solved as an economic one.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Since freeways began slicing through cities in the United States more than 75 years ago, they have carved deep and lasting lines of separation through countless communities. Many of these communities—located in so-called blighted areas—were made up of people of color who were simply pushed aside by the transportation officials building out the nation’s vast network of interstates and urban freeways. In a somewhat surprising speech in March 2016, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the nation’s top transportation official, acknowledged this dark history and the mistakes of his predecessors.

“We now know—overwhelmingly—that our urban freeways were routed through low-income neighborhoods. Instead of connecting us to each other, highway decision makers separated us,” Foxx said. Reflecting on his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, he noted how the “connective tissue” of the African American neighborhood where he lived rrns destroyed by two highways—infrastructure that was planned and built before federal civil rights legislation could intervene. “Neighbors were separated from neighbors. The corner store was gone because the corner was gone,” he said. “A new more convenient, high-speed thoroughfare had been created. But the way of life of another community had been destroyed.”

The huge gashes that freeways cut through cities will live on for the foreseeable future, as will their divisive legacy. But Foxx has vowed to try to undo some of that long-lasting damage. Though they may seem intractable, these divisions (more…)

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We’re crawling over hot highways and beneath dark underpasses in this month’s LAM, looking at a push from many quarters to recolonize the spaces wasted by modern highways and railroads. We have projects in Toronto, Houston, New York, and Washington, D.C., where wasted space is coming alive again. Nate Berg kicks us off with an essay about the moves to put parks and public spaces over and under freeways. It had been a huge priority of President Obama’s Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, who revived the sleeping debate about the scars left behind in urban neighborhoods about the freeway system.

In New York, Alex Ulam surveys the massive construction of a new mini-city, Hudson Yards, atop the West Side rail yards, where a complex landscape is under the charge of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. Jane Margolies travels to Toronto, where PFS Studio has created the exuberant Underpass Park in the bowel of a highway viaduct. Washington, D.C., is deleting a huge highway trench with several new blocks of city above it, as Braulio Agnese reports. Margie Ruddick, ASLA, and a team of designers and artists pushed the renovation of Queens Plaza in New York to its bureaucratic limits, and Julie Lasky finds it makes the soaring, clattering infrastructure around it much easier to take. And Jonathan Lerner visits the much-loved Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, where OJB Landscape Architecture has given the whole deck-park movement its favorite touchstone.

In the Foreground section, Zach Mortice interviews Susan Chin, Honorary ASLA, the head of the Design Trust for Public Space, which has pressed New York City officials to improve leftover spaces across the boroughs with its Under the Elevated campaign. Chin describes the results so far. The full table of contents for February can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating February articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Low Overhead,” Tom Arban Photography; “City, Heal Thyself,” Property Group Partners; “The Lid Comes On,” Marion Brenner, Affiliate ASLA; “The Seven-Foot Sandwich,” KPF and Nelson Byrd Woltz, “Layers of Players,” Sam Oberter; “Estuarine Serene,” David Burroughs; “Underneath, Overlooked,” William Michael Fredericks/Courtesy the Design Trust for Public Space.

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Under the Elevated launch event at Pier i.

Under the Elevated launch event at the Pier i Café.

Aside from the surviving section of the hulking Miller Highway viaduct looming overhead, Thomas Balsley’s masterfully designed Riverside Park South is a serene place with tall, wavy grasses and meandering pathways. The viaduct, however, bisects the park, casting shadows and blocking views. The din from the traffic overhead can make it difficult to hear people talking on parts on the park’s distinctive curved pier that juts out into the Hudson River.

Such was the case last week, when officials from the nonprofit Design Trust for Public Space and the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) had to shout to make themselves heard as they announced the publication of a new 128-page book called Under the Elevated: Reclaiming Space, Connecting Communities. The product of a two-year study, the book looks at ways to transform the often dark and dirty spaces beneath the 700 miles of bridges, elevated subway lines, and highways that run throughout the five boroughs of the city. According to the book’s introduction, the amount of space available for redesigning is nearly four times the size of Central Park.

With the publication of Under the Elevated, the Design Trust is seeking to inspire civic efforts throughout the city similar to the one it helped catalyze with its pivotal 2001 study for the High Line. “Not every neighborhood needs a High Line,” Design Trust Executive Director Susan Chin said. “However, the need to alleviate the negative impact from the presence of elevated lines is even greater in the outer boroughs.” (more…)

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