London’s most talked-about park project? The Camden Highline. The adaptive reuse project plans to temporarily transform an old railway viaduct that has been disused for 30 years and turn it into a 3/4-mile (1.2km) of public green space that stretches overhead from Camden Gardens to York Way.
Adaptive reuse is a functional, eco-friendly design trend that’s (luckily) been taking over public spaces for years now. Some of the most successful examples take something once great but now crumbling and turn it into something bigger and better than before. One of our favorite examples is The High Line in Manhattan, an old rail line elevated over the west side that was repurposed into a park in 2009.
It looks like London also had their eye on this popular park, and, like New York's High Line, expectations for the new elevated park are high, at least for the charity organization bringing this “ambitious social project” to life. The Camden Highline, part of an alliance with three other non-profits (Camden Town Unlimited, Euston Town, and Camden Collective), is aiming to create a space that will “benefit local businesses alongside the community” and notes online that “when complete, the Highline will be more than a physical link between neighborhoods, it will be the foundation for new links between communities.”
So far, so good, even if the pandemic threw them for a loop. However, it’s a lot of work for one small non-profit, so they’ve assembled a team that they call Camden Highliners (a consortium of donors, including an “alliance of backers, residents, businesses, funders, and government” who will work together to get the project off the ground.
Things are coming together, and the project recently released design images of what the park will look like. Initial plans feature an overall modern industrial look that combines glass, concrete, wood, and iron. The proposed Camden Highline sports perforated walkways, seating nooks and viewing platforms, kiosk space and incorporates the character of Camden’s existing street-level city elements into the experience.
If you think it sounds a bit like the New York High Line, it’s not by chance. In September of last year, the Camden Highline announced they’d be holding a competition to determine which design firm would have dibs to create the new park. The winning firm was none other than James Corner Field Operations, the firm behind New York's beloved park.
However, unlike the New York High Line, the Camden Highline is expected to be just a temporary space, a conversion that the public can enjoy until the City of London takes over the rails for an upcoming expansion of the North London Line. Interestingly, the proposed design seems to play off the transitory nature of the park, offering up dynamic options for things like seasonal vegetation to seating configuration.
Currently, there’s no set date for when we’ll be able to stroll along the Camden Highline, though the organization says it will most likely take years. Until then, you can check out the route through photos—or, even better, when you’re in London, you can take a virtually-guided walk along the park’s path via the Camden Highline website.
Curious to learn more about this new park in The Big Smoke? Sign up here for the Q&A with the design team being held on March 11, 2021.