Living the high-line life: How aerial parks transform cities

·3 min read

Mancunians might soon be enjoying the view from the top, after 12 Architects and The National Trust unveiled joint plans to build an elevated park walkway along a disused viaduct in the city. 

The 130-year-old, Grade II-listed Castlefield Viaduct should be transformed into a green oasis by summer 2022, in a manner similar to New York's famous The High Line - a park walkway created on an abandoned railway spur on the west side of Manhattan. 

"The initial plan is to open the viaduct next summer as a temporary park to test ideas and use the space to gather feedback for the viaduct’s longer-term future," said The National Trust, in a statement. 

An artist's impression of what the Manchester park would look like (Credit: The National Trust/12 Architects)
An artist's impression of what the Manchester park would look like (Twelve Architects and Masterplanners)

The pretty Promenade plantée in Paris, built on top of a ruined railway line in 1993, was probably the world's first sky garden created in a disused city structure. 

But since it opened in 2009 it's really the New York High Line that has inspired cities throughout the United States, and across the world, to transform derelict infrastructure and neglected areas into safe, green public parks - on high. 

A view of downtown New York City from the High Line Park (Getty Images)
A view of downtown New York City from the High Line Park (Getty Images)

And now, more cities than ever seem to be looking up and creating innovative aerial parks. 

The team behind London's Camden Highline are currently trying to fundraise to create London's next 'park in the sky', with plans to turn a 1.2km disused stretch of railway viaduct into a new elevated park in North London. And back across the Atlantic, Little Island is a brand new elevated park built on concrete structures on the Hudson River in New York.

Meanwhile The Tide, 'London’s first-ever elevated riverside linear park,' opened in 2019 on Greenwich Peninsula. The 1k trail features trees, grasses, and wldflowers along a series of elevated walkways, rising as high as nine metres above ground level with views out across the river Thames.

Read more: London inaugurating its first elevated linear park

It will eventually stretch to 5km and is already dotted with art installations by a mixture of emerging and well-known artists, such as Damien Hirst. 

All these parks exemplify the innovative ways in which elevated parks, almost always built on abandoned infrastructure or in neglected areas, can transform local communities and inject a breath of fresh air in places where space is at a serious premium. After the pandemic, this feels more important than ever. 

People walking 'The Tide' bridges . The Tide is a linear park with elevated walks around the Greenwich Peninsula South London England UK
People enjoying The Tide park in Greenwich (Getty Images)

“We’re delighted to be starting this project to bring new life to the viaduct," said Duncan Laird, Head of Urban Places at the National Trust, who has been working on the Castlefield walkway plan. 

"Our ambition is to give more people the opportunity to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of green, nature-rich havens on this remarkable heritage structure in the city. This feels especially important in urban areas like Manchester where there is need for more high-quality green spaces. This project will also help bring people back to the city centre and support local businesses to recover."

Watch This: The High Line to be extended

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