The High Line is an abandoned railway line in Manhattan. It was built in the early 1930s and has been unused since 1980. It used to transport cattle into the heart of the city. For more than a quarter century, the line was in a state of disrepair, yet the elevated structure was basically sound. Wild grass and plants grew on the abandoned track. During the Giuliani administration, the High Line was set for demolition to make way for development.
In 1999, neighborhood residents Robert Hammond and Joshua David created a community-based group called Friends of the High Line to try and stop the demolition and transform the High Line into an elevated linear park. They managed to raise more than $30 million dollars to help fund the project, which was used along with funding from the city. The first section of the linear park was opened to the public last Tuesday (June 9th 2009).
The new High Line is a wonderful example of how we can reuse existing infrastructure and the potential to simply reinvent spaces. The structure was there. People always imagined this possibility occurring, yet for so long it never materialized. It took great perseverance and dedication for the Friends of the High Line to follow through on their ideas and see the project to completion. It is certainly worth the wait.
The project has already reinvigorated its neighborhood. Several hotels and museums have decided to relocate alongside the High Line and will become a part of the experience. Pedestrians now have a wonderful new route that elevates them above the noisy and dirty streets below. The project was designed by landscape firm Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Buildings and infrastructure are static objects, yet the programs that conceived them may have become obsolete long ago. Why should the built environment be held hostage to that original intent? The New High Line transformed the obsolete into the essential. I can imagine the adjacent buildings creating elevated entrances that provide access directly to the park.
Where in Kuwait City can we see the potential for such urban transformation? There are so many possibilities and we here at re:kuwait will attempt to shine the spotlight on such places and visualize how that transformation would take place.
Here are two quick examples of locations in Kuwait City that would benefit immensely from urban renewal. Of course, the obvious candidate is the green belt adjacent to the First Ring Road. This linear space extends from the Sheraton roundabout all the way to the south corner of Dasman Palace. There are only a few buildings on the strip, such as the ice skating rink and the new kids’ education center. The potential here is to create a mixed use park that provides places to jog, to relax and to escape the city (arriving either by walking or car). The financial incentive would be that the land adjacent to the park would become far more desirable and mixed use development would benefit greatly from being built alongside a high-value asset such as a park.
The space is currently vastly underutilized with classically landscaped, badly lit gardens and big open dusty patches. The park would also be only a pedestrian bridge away from the residential areas below the First Ring Road and the redevelopment would provide an excellent ‘mamsha’ for their residents.
Another example for redevelopment in Kuwait is in Salmiya, between the end of the 4th ring road and Salem Al-Mubarak Street (that’s Marina Mall on the top right of the image). As it is, you cannot drive through the space. There is a U-turn at the end of both streets, and the space is lined with parking on either side of the road. A full parking situation would mean that there would be four lines of cars throughout the length of the space. The potential here is to simply remove the streets entirely and have a shaded pedestrian promenade.
The new lively space will be home to street performers, art galleries, small shops owned by young, energetic Kuwaiti entrepreneurs, quirky restaurants and lounge spaces. There is so much demand for space in Kuwait, but most of the available rental space is in hermetically sealed Malls. This is an alternative.
There is ample space for parking in the surrounding lots. The landowners can even charge for parking during high demand. The buildings on either side of the promenade are 30 meters apart, which is wide enough to even allow the shops to extend inwards in places so as to have usable space above the extension. I imagine the end result would look something like this:
The shops lose by not having direct access to the street, but they would gain far more from increasing the ‘prestige’ of the street and being part of a new and vibrant location. The promenade is accessible to Marina Mall, as it is only one block away.
It’s a shame that nobody has done this yet. The potential is there, yet the space is stagnant and wasted. In future posts we will illustrate and visualize how we believe these projects should manifest. Our hope is that people would be inspired and take the initative to try and make them happen. If two guys in NY city could create a park on an abandoned railway line, we can do so much more.