With the US Embassy moving to Embassy Gardens in 2017 and New York’s Meatpacking District a major influence on its building design, the ties between two of the world’s great cities are already clear to see. Another nod to the States on the south of the River Thames will be Linear Park, a kilometre-long green space that will stretch from Vauxhall to Battersea.
New York’s High Line exemplifies effective, adaptive urban re-use in a city dominated by skyscrapers. By turning an elevated freight train track that was abandoned in the 1980s into a public park, the project has created a fresh experience for New Yorkers. A lot of its success is down to James Corner, who worked tirelessly to preserve and transform the area.
‘The site and context with the original aura of post-industrial melancholia were dormant yet bursting with potential,’ says Corner. ‘The whole neighbourhood was a kind of sub-cultural underground, with a charged other-worldliness coloured by old meatpacking and warehouse facilities, gay night clubs, small artist studios, dereliction and a sense of abandonment.
‘The High Line was just this old hulking structure, dark and forlorn. And yet on top was this amazing force of nature – green grasses, flowers, and vines had taken root to create a completely unexpected garden running for over a mile-and-a-half through the city. Also, the views and vistas were just spectacular; you had the sense of being a voyeur, able to see and peek without yourself being seen, detached from the street.’
Visitors can clearly see all of New York’s main attractions from High Line, from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty.
Corner says: ‘The High Line is like a slice through real New York, both old and new. It is fun to stroll, to see, to meet and to just participate in the life of the city, mixing with people of all backgrounds from all around the world.’
Linear Park promises to give Londoners a similar experience, by creating a space between buildings, ‘the public realm where most urban life takes place, and where the defining character of any great city resides’.