To keep an old building, or bust it down and build something new in its place? Such is the question facing architects who want to increase property value while minimizing the cost to do it.
Projects like New York’s High Line and the Dorchester Projects are great examples of what’s known as adaptive reuse, giving a structure a second act, and they are leaders of a growing trend.
Some of these projects breed creativity by encouraging experimental design — architects can think about approaching an established structure in a different way — and by devoting more space for public engagement. Perhaps most importantly, projects like the following enhance the placemaking and livability of their city.
The High Line, Manhattan, New York:
What was once a dangerous, vital railway that ran down Manhattan streets and, sometimes, over its pedestrians, the High Line now offers fields of wildflowers and beautiful views of the city along its tracks — essentially a meadow suspended three stories above the streets.
The original railroad opened back in 1934 in an effort to reduce street-level traffic and accidents. But when reliance on rail diminished in the ’50s due to interstate trucking (the last train ran its tracks in 1980), the High Line subsequently fell into neglect and became a thing people hated. But Joshua David and Robert Hammond saw potential, and formed the non-profit Friends of the High Line in 1999 to lobby for its preservation.
When construction is complete, the park, which is owned by New York City and maintained by Friends of the Highline, will stop at West 34th St.
The High Line’s story is told in a documentary produced by Great Museums that debuted last month; you can see the full video here.
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