MPA has directed over a decade of practice-based research toward realizing the tremendous public-space potential of elevated transportation infrastructure. Most of the projects listed below address elevated structures for highways, subways, or trains. Some extend this thinking to other ubiquitous urban infrastructures, including sidewalk sheds and municipal parking garages. By enabling such structures to contribute to the richness of urban life, we redefine the notion of infrastructure itself: from a discrete monofunctional element, to a vital network supporting a full spectrum of human needs and environmental systems.
SELECTED VIADUCTSPACES (for download)
Metro Crossroads, New York, NY
Glass City Thresholds, Toledo, OH
Elevated Structure Design, Long Island City, NY
Reclamation Park Pathways, Boston, MA
Situated Structures, Staten Island, NY
Highline Sublime, New York, NY
Elevated Railway Park and Garden, Nagoya, Japan
Multimodal Garage, New York, NY
Performance Shed, New York, NY
What is Viaductspace?
In New York and cities around the world, significant progress has been realized in innovative streetscape and transit practices that privilege the human dimension. Initiatives grounded in the principles of Complete Streets rethink urban streets as places for people, challenging their original conception in strict traffic efficiency terms. Initiatives such as Transit Oriented Development and Context Sensitive Solutions establish principles and practices for new transit infrastructures, enabling them to perform as well at the local and neighborhood scales as at the scale of regional transportation networks.
Alongside this progress, spaces dominated by existing elevated infrastructures lag behind. Elevated portions of highway, rail, and subway corridors were engineered at metropolitan and regional scales to move large volumes of cars, freight, and people. Never designed around their impact on the ground, they often obliterated the fabric of the particular places through which they cut. Today, with their overwhelming scale and complex ownership issues, elevated infrastructures and the spaces they shape – Viaductspaces – have largely escaped design attention.
We believe that Viaductspaces can not only have a positive urban presence, but can perform fundamental roles in supporting wayfinding, sustainability, active design, and spatial quality. To bring these infrastructures into the 21st century requires us to rethink them as places, moving beyond the monofunctional thinking of traditional traffic engineering. This challenge requires not only design ingenuity and skilled implementation, but also agency and stakeholder support.
Our approach acknowledges that it is not possible to neutralize, decorate, or make a huge infrastructure recede or disappear. Nor have we focused on the resource-intensive approach of removing these structures. Our goal, instead, has been to reframe them in such a way that they contribute to the human experience of urban space. MPA’s Viaductspaces work like acupuncture, using three-dimensional multi-scalar analysis to identify targeted, minimal interventions that transform the presence and perception of elevated structures. We focus on the human dimension to catalyze urban-scale revitalization.
By working with the unique three-dimensional spatial qualities of Viaductspaces, limited design interventions can harness the power of these urban-scale artifacts to produce a positive impact over an extended and often fragmented site. Any site has been shaped by multiple successive processes both urban and natural – often according to logics outside the site itself. Making new sense of a complex environment requires finding legibility in its existing artifacts, enabling them to contribute to the future of that environment. As an artifact from another time and another logic, elevated infrastructure possesses a kind of a strangeness – a lack of fit with the present – that, when leveraged, can shape urban identity and contribute to the positive diversity of environments that is fundamental to urban quality.
Queens Plaza Infrastructure Reframed, Urban OmniBus
High Performance Landscape Guidelines: Queens Plaza Case Study