Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hide the freeway, create a park

Madrid's newly revealed Manzanares River and one of the new bridges

Right after World War II, political leaders wanted to create a freeway system in America that linked the nation's cities as efficiently as possible. These behemoths crossed the land making it easy to travel by car or truck from city center to city center. But the rules the governments used to raze neighborhoods to make room for these roads did not take aestheics into account. Cities were separated from their waterfronts, their rivers and lakes, neighborhoods were cut in two and scenery was destroyed. 

Seattle was one of the first to try and remedy this by building Freeway Park over Interstate five to link Capitol Hill with Downtown Seattle using a park loaded with waterfalls to hide the traffic noise. But this only hid a few blocks worth of this freeway.

Freeway Park in Seattle

Boston built the Big Dig to bury their freeway and retain access to their waterfront. Although it ended up being a huge boondoggle, it did successfully link the city back to its waterfront, opening up parks and an aquarium plus many great restaurants and hotels. Now you can walk from Faneuil Hall to the Aquarium without noticing that Interstate 93 is under your feet .

Boston waterfront
Other municipailities have taken note and are burying their own freeways to reclaim land for use as parks and investment zones. Europe has taken some big steps.

Hamburg's buried freeway
South Korea buried a freeway and revealed a river. There's a great web-site devoted to this and similar projects. Look at these before and after pictures of Seoul's renewal project:

The latest success story is happening in Madrid where the buried freeway has revealed a hidden river and miles of new park-land.

Click on this Slide show to see some stunning pictures of this new park.

Some of the advantages of this project were that people who used to stay indoors to avoid the traffic noise now walk around outside in the new parks that have been opening at a rate of one per month.

The city has been opening architecturally beautiful bridges crossing the newly revealed river.

Some of the bridges look like upturned canoes
Some of the interesting facts I learned about this project in this article were that European government projects like this are much cheaper than similar American projects and that a broke government like Spain can still do projects on this scale. There may yet be hope for some of the uglified American cities.


  1. Dallas is about to open its own park above the freeway:

    1. Looks great, downtown resident!

      I like this website about it better:
      I want to play on the croquet lawn.