The regeneration of urban spaces is often pivotal to addressing community cohesion, social inclusion, ecological imbalance, and economic disparity. A newly revitalized urban space can work to enhance the prosperity of an area and should, ideally, benefit all members of the community.
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) says that “urban regeneration brings back underutilized assets and redistributes opportunities, increasing urban prosperity and quality of life.” UN-Habitat notes concerns around the complexity of urban regeneration initiatives and their potential to gentrify private spaces or privatize public spaces.
The following projects are examples of urban space regeneration initiatives that strive to improve community connection and quality of life.
Wood Marsh Architecture has completed two new state-of-the-art railway stations — Coburg and Moreland — on the city of Melbourne’s Upfield Line. In a civic architectural response by the studio, the project upgrades amenities across the surrounding urban landscape to better serve the local community. A newly elevated two kilometers of track opens up 22.5 hectares (55.6 acres) of space beneath the Upfield Line for public use. The community-focused design includes a network of pathways, parks, and playgrounds, providing a series of vibrant and dynamic community hubs.
In Wieleń, Poland, Neostudio Architekci transformed the site of a former decommissioned bus station into a community space comprising a cafe, square, and multifunctional facility for social and cultural initiatives. The cafe also serves as a city information center. The project, part of the revitalization of the city’s market square, is a place that offers residents and visitors a mix of educational and recreational amenities.
Simplex Architecture completed a project that addresses the often overlooked and neglected spaces beneath overpasses in the city of Seoul, South Korea. Seoul Metropolitan Government promoted an initiative that would expand social infrastructure and local community facilities by making use of these spaces. Working beneath the city’s Jongam-dong overpass, Simplex Architecture designed and constructed Jong-Am Square — the building, with its segmented forms, includes multi-purpose cultural and community spaces.
In Aalborg, Denmark, JAJA Architects transformed the former loading area of the city’s Gigantium sports and culture building into an urban plaza. Promoting outdoor sporting and cultural activities, JAJA Architects utilized shades of red with playful white graphics to identify the space. The urban space is part of Aalborg Municipality’s “Plusbus” program, described as an “environmentally friendly bus connection that creates greater coherence between transport and urban development.”
The Moynihan Connector is a recently opened 600-feet-long (183-meter-long) extension to New York’s celebrated “High Line” (and much revered urban space). Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the project is part of a “long-standing vision to create safer, more enjoyable pedestrian access, connect people to transit, and seamlessly link public open spaces and other community assets in the neighborhood.” The connector is the final link in a chain of pedestrian pathways — “an episodic urban journey” — with lush landscaping.
In Montornès del Vallès, a municipality in Barcelona Province, Spain, Hiha Studio worked on the urban regeneration of an abandoned sports facility, transforming it into an urban park. The park aims to improve the living conditions of local residents, in a neighborhood with few public spaces. The design reimagines the plowed fields and orchards that once existed in the area. Moreover, it prioritizes biodiversity and decarbonization — demolished materials from the existing sports facilities were reused as gravel to make drainage ditches and pavements.
Spark Architects completed the Minhang Riverfront Regeneration project, part of a wider regeneration master plan for public spaces in Shanghai’s Minhang District. The former rundown riverfront, with its vestiges of disused industrial buildings, is now a much more vibrant area: a mix of businesses and varied amenities are connected by Spark’s urban park, described as “an open space armature around which existing developments have been upgraded.” The project is a response to a desire by the government and community for better pedestrian connections and a more sustainable living environment.
In the Taiwanese city of Taichung, Mecanoo developed the design for a “people-oriented green corridor.” Here, a disused railway line plays a key role in revitalizing the city’s urban realm. Viewed as a barrier owing to its location, the repurposed line now connects different parts of the city in a sustainable fashion: as a central public park, it promotes biodiversity, prioritizes cycle and pedestrian lanes, and is a recreational beacon for the local community and wider Taichung population.
Nygaardsplassen, a shopping area in Fredrikstad, Norway, was once a tired city district. Mad arkitekter worked on a project to revitalize the area by increasing its urban life and housing. The project involved the construction of two multi-use buildings, clad in brick to fit within the town center’s historic context — the buildings mix apartments with commercial and hospitality spaces. Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet deemed the project as: “an excellent example of how good architecture and concentrated urban repair can transform urban spaces that are both dysfunctional and deprived of footfall, into areas of a town which are popular and well-functioning.”
10. Infra-Space 1
A pilot project by Landing Studio, Infra-Space 1 was part of a Massachusetts Department of Transportation initiative to revitalize desolate areas beneath highway viaducts. In a project spanning eight acres (3.24 hectares) in the middle of downtown Boston, Landing Studio incorporated a stormwater management landscape, new “multi-modal” paths, and public recreation spaces. The new paths now connect neighborhoods once divided by the highway and include a series of art installations.