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Urban Landscapes as Tipping Points

Since its opening in 2009, New York City’s Highline has become a go-to location for collaborative brainstorming sessions or rendez-vous with out-of-town visitors. What was life in the city without it? Climbing the steps at Gansevoort Street leads to a reinvented perspective on Manhattan, the Hudson River, and the possibilities for cultural fusion. With its four season planting design, the walkways shift in color and texture, revealing ever-changeable visuals of nature re-seeding a city.

Here is a video sketch of Sarah Sze’s “Highline Housing,” a bird habitat in residence on the Highline since 2011, an intersection of art, sculpture and function in echo-effect to the Highline itself:

High Line Housing from wordcitystudio on Vimeo.

Once an urban landscape shifts to new levels green, it provides a tipping point for urban eco-systems. Cities are living organisms, capable of generating power, energy and life force on multiple levels. New York City’s increase in bike paths, urban forest programs like MillionTreesNYC, expanded farmers markets and urban farms provide trending for the entire globe.

As Majora Carter expressed in this 2006 TedTalks, “Greening the Ghetto,” urban green space changes lives.

Since her appearance at Ted in 2006, Carter, a MacArthur Fellow, has become a global leader in the urban green movement. Her organization, Sustainable South Bronx, provides green collar job training, rooftop garden projects, green space initiatives and environmental education programs.

With the rise in rooftop farming, urban beekeeping, and locavore food businesses throughout the city, the urban ecosystem has reached a tipping point of influence on sustainability. With the addition of green space, urban vegetable gardens, the environment of neighborhoods shift and change. Studies by the Sustainable Cities Institute and other think tanks indicate that the addition of trees and greenery in neighborhoods not only enhances air quality and reduces water runoff, but lowers crime rates, creates new economies, and improves the general well-being of its inhabitants.

Upcoming projects in the #GreenNYC realm include the Lowline, a highly ambitious underground garden planned for New York’s Lower East Side, which aims to “transform an abandoned trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of Manhattan into the world’s first underground park” using innovative solar technology to access street-level sunlight to source the plantings below. The Lowline collaboration completed a successful Kickstarter campaign this spring, raising over $150,000 to launch the project:

Who knows? In a few years, the Lowline just might replace the Highline as the favorite meeting place in the city. Especially when it rains.




There are 6 comments

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  1. Peta Mni

    Great post! I’d advocate making our waste greener as well as recently demonstrated @MayorSamAdams tinyurl.com/6msbjau

  2. Sweeneyk

    Thanks for the link! Portland is so ahead of the curve in urban planning…how about all of that free public transportation?

  3. Natasha

    I thought the Lowline was just a concept, but if it is going to happen, it totally would be my favorite place!!!!!!!

  4. Sweeneyk

    If the success of the Kickstarter campaign is any indication, then this project is clearly moving forward and has all players in place….exciting!

  5. Melissa

    The whole idea of an underground park sounds fascinating! Great article. I look forward to seeing the installation that will be erected to promote the initiative and generate awareness about their use of solar technology in this case.

  6. Anonymous

    I read that he architects are set to do a pilot which will be built just under the current Essex Street Market – a natural way to expand that great place.  These projects are all great, but let us not forget about the wasted* trillions we have let the politicians or rather their masters get away with scot free, to be paid by future generations of taxpayers.  It is sad that – just like Central Park was saved from its derelict state by the private neighbors (well,  another story), such initiatives have to come from private initiatives.

    (*) not wasted, but really stolen by the obfuscators at the Fed and the banks.


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