Equally challenging as conceptualizing public place-making areas from scratch or perhaps more so are the urban regeneration projects that seek to develop existing parcels of land in cities that have dilapidated over time. Also known as urban revitalization, urban revival, urban renewal or urban renaissance, the process lays its priority in tackling issues that have arisen due to changes in urban growth and productivity, such as, economic decline, environmental decay, community dereliction, etc., in certain pockets of land in many cities across the globe.
This concept of rehabilitating underutilized and distressed urban sites is not new and had been emphasized in countries of the West in the aftermath of the Second World War and in other major regions that were prone to environmental hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. Other causes for the underperformance of city environments include climate change, ageing infrastructure and congestion.
To regrow economic activity, restore social functions and instill social inclusion, and revive ecological balance, are the main goals envisioned while regenerating urban public spaces. Moving forward, along with building afresh comes a responsibility to commemorate existing infrastructure and neglected spaces, and delivering liveable environments to cities and their inhabitants.
And in doing so, celebrating public gatherings and communal social activities proves extremely beneficial in reviving the essence of urban fabrics. Public spaces are multi-functional and dynamic forums that become the life of a city, and as essential components of the urban infrastructure, they contribute significantly to define the city images and characteristic identities.
Listed below are some thriving urban regeneration projects that have successfully served their purposes and managed to reclaim all that was lost.
The High Line, New York City, USA
June 2008 marked the completion of the renovation of the existing West Side industrial railway line that operated till 1980 in New York City into an elevated public park intended to break away from the city chaos and offer views of the Hudson River and New York City’s eminent skyline.
In 2003, an open competition was held to convert this 1.45 mile elevated steel structure that was built in the 1930s for freight trains into an urban promenade and the winning proposal by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro was introduced to the public after five years of construction.
Since its inaugural, the project has met all expectations and showed the potential of greening opportunities in the surrounding neighbourhood, alternative transportation options and social benefits for the changing urban lives. The promenade that comprises three sections with about a dozen access points is designed as a pathless landscape through a strategy that architects referred to as agri-tecture, which is part agriculture and part architecture.
City Thread, Chattanooga, USA
Intended to revitalise an unused and neglected alley in downtown Chattanooga into an active public recreational space, architectural firm SPORTS’s design of a zig-zag 500 feet long steel structure and painted graphics won the Passageways 2.0 international design competition.
City Thread, which was completed in 2018, is a small-scale and low-budget urban intervention serving as a social connector between the visitors and locals residing in the area. The installation is designed to break down the entire alleyway into a series of intimate spaces or “urban rooms” that could accommodate various activities and functions as suited for the users.
Level Up, Rijeka, Croatia
Level Up is a pavilion built as a part of the 2018 European Architecture Students’ Assembly through participative construction by students from various countries and interested locals through adaptive reuse of an abandoned industrial area. The architects of the project, Brett Mahon, Joonas Parviainen, Saagar Tulshan and Shreyansh Sett had envisioned highlighting Rijeka’s industrial heritage and bringing back life to the otherwise forsaken spaces.
The pavilion is built on an extension of an industrial storage building, rising in the form of a series of levels, each providing intimate spaces for small groups, from the street until the top of an existing building’s roof. With an industrial aesthetic, the installation invites locals for social gatherings and events and offers views of the surrounding mountains and the cityscape.
Infra-Space 1, Boston, USA
This project was built as a part of the Massachusetts Department of Transport’s scheme to revitalize the land under elevated highway viaducts that are generally decrepit and inaccessible. The architects at Landing Studio aimed to create a public zone with various programmes and link this space to the rest of the city through multi-nodal connections.
The Infra-Space 1 development is also integrated with green stormwater infrastructure to manage run-offs from the highways that might contaminate the local waterways. Since its completion in 2017, the project has accomplished providing an inclusive and accessible landscape, improving the essence of the public realm of the city.
Kasvattamo Greenhouse, Helsinki, Finland
Kasvattamo, which translates to ‘growery’, is a prototype temporary installation intended to promote urban farming in unused urban voids. Designed by the ROOH Studio, the project was first assembled in the barren courtyard of Helsinki City Museum and later reused at a greenhouse in the city.
While aiding self-sufficient food sourcing in underutilised pockets of the urban fabric with the provision of space to grow edible plants, the project also achieved in serving as a vibrant centre hosting various community activities and a space for leisure for the locals.
- Urban Regeneration –
- The High Line –
- City Thread –
- Level Up –
- Infra-Space 1 –
- Kasvattamo Greenhouse –