San Francisco is an urban city, no doubt. Progressive in design and ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to designing for pedestrians. A recent design competition revealed creative options for space that is currently occupied by an elevated highway similar to I-81.
A design competition sponsored by The Center for Architecture + Design explored several options for an elevated portion of highway I-280 geared toward pedestrian connectivity and open space. One particular design caught my interest, Fieldshift, by Erik Jensen and Justin Richardson. The designers imagined a cultural field, whereby the existing pylon towers remained intact as examples of the “scars” left by mistakes of the past.
San Francisco and Syracuse are very different cities, with different needs and infrastructure requirements, but it seems to me that the underlying story is the same. A large elevated highway was constructed in the 1950’s, severing neighborhoods and displacing businesses. The highways were successful in moving people through the city, but destroyed urban centers in doing so.
The difference is that residents and politicians in San Francisco recognize that the highway has served its purpose and that there could be a better use of space and connectivity for this section of the highway. In Syracuse, they story feels different. There is opposition to removing the highway over fears of longer commutes. Will our city choose to replicate a mistake from the 50’s or let city our continue to heal its scars.
For more of the winning designs related to the re-use of highway I-280 check out: