Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Path of Least Resistence

A (very bad) scan from the forward to LeCorbusier's The City of Tomorrow and Its Planning. The author marvels at a raised highway being built along the Hudson River in New York.

The Jones Falls Expressway is a busy north-south artery running into the heart of downtown Baltimore. Conceived in 1943 through a collaboration between Baltimore city and Robert Moses, the JFX, as it is called, is the result of a lot of changed plans and compromise. In its final iteration, the expressway rises into a viaduct that mirrors, in places, the path of its namesake, the actual Jones Falls river. I can see this section of the highway from my home, and I often walk along the banks of the river, which is shadowed by the six-lane road rising above it. Runoff from the road trickles out through a series of spouts, emptying directly into the water below. When it rains heavily, as it did this past weekend, that trickle becomes a waterfall. My husband, Matt, snapped a few photos:

Highways co-opting the path of waterways abound. Some cities have successfully daylighted buried streams and removed infrastructure in order to remediate the ecosystem. The late Walter Sondheim once suggested dismantling the viaduct section of the JFX and bringing the waterway back into the city's plan in a more thoughtful manner. I heard of an interesting example of a city daylighting a stream in a city center from Baltimore-based architect Gabriel Kroiz. He wrote an article about Seoul, Korea when I was the editor at Urbanite. The city removed an elevated expressway and re-routed commuters through a series of new roads and public transit options. Pedestrians, bicyclers, shops, and park space now line the shores of the Cheonggye River: