Camden Highline will transform London’s railway tracks

The linear park will transform unused railway tracks into green space, but the British capital aims to avoid criticism of its Manhattan predecessor.

Finally approved in January, London is preparing to create its own answer to New York’s iconic High Line. Signed by the same architects-James Corner Field Operations-Camden Highline will adhere closely to the model established by its U.S. namesake: a linear garden and walkway along disused railroad tracks. Spanning 1.2 kilometers along a path north of central London, the project unlike its predecessor will be less than half the length of its namesake and will be built and planted in small phases.

James Corner Field Operations, Camden Highline, London, UK. Courtesy Camden Highline

Although the designs of the two projects look formally the same, Camden’s version could avoid the fate of New York’s High Line, which has been widely criticized as a vector of gentrification. “The High Line is a very effective example of landscape architecture, yet it is fundamentally compromised by its main motive, which is to gentrify the city,” Reinhold Martin, an architectural and media historian, had indeed commented on the matter.

But in this case since the park will pass through areas that have already been gentrified or are nearing the end of a period of intense redevelopment, it is unlikely that Camden Highline will instead be a major catalyst for change in the neighborhood. The western end of the park begins in an area consisting mainly of affluent Victorian housing, while the eastern end has been radically redeveloped with new houses and stores..

Courtesy Camden Highline

Helping to combat pollution and the heat island effect, the park will provide a new stretch of greenery in a relatively treeless neighborhood, which could also do much to dampen train noise and give residents privacy. There is also enough space on the tracks to place a children’s play area, an outdoor schoolroom, and some plots for community gardens-especially valuable in the central section of the track, which runs through sparsely cultivated areas of public housing.

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