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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

Click above for a full PDF of the translated text with English text available below.

BY JONATHAN LERNER

FROM THE MAY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Harahan Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee, opened in 1916. Down its center ran railroad tracks. Cantilevered off each side was a 14-foot-wide “wagonway” for cars, trucks, horse carts, and pedestrians. This bridge is what’s called a through truss, with a latticelike steel superstructure like something from a giant Erector Set. The two outboard roadways, however, were originally planked in wood. Trains tend to throw off fragments and sparks—and not just antique ones that blew fiery debris from their smokestacks. “It’s like shrapnel,” says the landscape architect Ritchie Smith, ASLA. “Rocks, nails, anything that’s on those tracks just gets pulverized, and can even be inflamed.” In 1928, the Harahan’s wagonways caught fire and burned out of control. “They had all the water you want 120 feet below, but no way to siphon it up,” he says wryly. Rebuilt, the Harahan continued to convey motor traffic until a highway bridge opened nearby in 1949. The wagonway decking was removed. Then, until recently, only trains used the bridge—officially. “There are all kinds of people who, when they were kids, would try to go walk across it. How tempting was that?” asks Lissa Thompson, ASLA, a coprincipal at Smith’s Memphis firm, Ritchie Smith Associates.

Tempting indeed. Anybody willing to clamber out along the exposed girders could have been rewarded with (more…)

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