Design

London’s Highline Will Echo Its New York Inspiration, With Local Notes

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The rail bridge, which is now derelict, stretches across an active street in north London. Greenery peeks through the gaps between beams, and bright blue paint flakes from rusting steel.

Farther east, the railway’s grand Victorian-era arches span a small slice of park wedged between two streets, where tents belonging to homeless people, a discarded mattress and broken bottles are scattered about.

The Camden Highline is a planned public space that will transform this disused stretch of city into a thriving, green space.

“They’re all unloved bits of Camden,” said Simon Pitkeathley, the chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited, The Business Improvement DistrictThe initiative is a map of the areas which will provide the Highline with its ground-level entrances one day.

London can be seen from a new perspective by strolling along the path of the planned park. It will sit 25 feet above street level. The air is fresher up here and the hustle and bustle of the streets below fades as the view extends over a patch in north London, peppered with offices and homes.

The Camden Highline project is estimated to cost 35 million pounds or $44.5million. Its supporters hope it will one-day become a major attraction for both tourists as well as locals. They also hope that the project will bring much needed foot traffic to the area.

Instead of trying to hide the inspiration, London’s line will intentionally echo that of New York.

It also harnesses an abandoned railway, which has lain unused for many decades, in the case the Camden line, it’s been around 30 years.

Mr. Pitkeathley, during a recent walking route of the planned path, pointed out an archway made of bricks that will eventually be a sleek stairway leading to the elevated park. Londoners are shown in design drawings walking along leafy pathways, past wildflowers gardens and viewing platforms to admire the streetscapes.

The Camden Highline’s planned width varies greatly along its route, expanding more than 65 feet in some areas that used to be full station platforms, while shrinking to under 10 feet in other sections.

The project’s design team was headed by James Corner Field Operations was the architect of the New York High Line.Working with other designers, as well as London based social enterprises who helped consult residents about their vision for a park.

So while the links to the original High Line are clear — and hopes for the same success are front of mind — the design is adapted to serve the neighborhood where it sits, Mr. Pitkeathley said.

There are several differences. One is that there is a train line that runs directly next to the site where the park will be built.

Mr. Pitkeathley stated that the area surrounding the green space is largely public land with affordable housing. This means that both wealthy and lower-income Londoners can benefit from the proximity to the new greenspace.

Londoners and visitors will have to wait some time before they can enjoy this park.

The first section of the project, which runs from Camden Gardens to Royal College Street, was approved in January 2023.

He said that construction would not begin until 2025. The Highline’s first section is expected to be completed in 2027. Two more sections are still many years away.

Mr. Pitkeathley refused to reveal how much money was still needed to be raised.

But when the entire project is completed, it will wend its way for three-quarters of a mile east from Camden Town, already a popular destination, to King’s Cross, a transport hub and the site of another urban regeneration project.

National Trust and other conservation groups have already praised the plan for the Camden Highline, including Sadiq Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, and Keir Khan, London’s mayor. The planning team has been focusing on the opinions and concerns of those who live in the area.

Lyn Walls (57) lives in the Maiden Lane Estate. This is a mixed-use residential complex that includes both public and private housing. It is located adjacent to the area where the easternmost part of the new park eventually will be built. As of right now, her only connection to the area to the west is an unlit, graffiti-ridden path.

She said that the Camden Highline would eventually provide a walking link to the communities to her west. Ms. Walls usually “takes the long way around” when walking there, she said, because of a secluded passageway that currently links the two areas.

“Going that way just isn’t appealing — it needs more lighting and just more people using it,” she said. The Highline, she added, “will make such a difference.”

She was walking her dog in a basketball court enclosed on the grounds with her two granddaughters and her daughter-in law one recent winter afternoon. There are a few green spaces in the area but Ms. Walls said that the Highline will add much needed park space.

At a cafe at the western end of the Highline’s route, Kiran Duggal, 25, and Barnaby Fishwick, 20, sipped coffee in the sun of a mild winter afternoon.

The friends, who both work in a nearby pub, were both excited by the possibility of more walking paths and green space.

“That will make life so much easier,” said Ms. Duggal, who lamented the lack of a good walkable route connecting the eastern and western parts of this area of London.

“Around north London, there are just so many dead sites,” Mr. Fishwick said, adding that he was eager to see the new park come to life. “I do just love a good stroll.”

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