Beyond the High Line: Five Bridges You’ll Want to Stroll Across

Five upcoming projects that will remake bridges into houses, shops, and parks.

Ponte Vecchio

Mixed-use bridges stocked with shops and public spaces are at least as old as the Ponte Vecchio (pictured above), which for hundreds of years has housed Florence’s jewelry district. But recently, we saw a new take on that theme, the High Line park, designed by James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which turned an abandoned section of elevated rail into instant classic of urban planning. And the High Line has also signaled a renewed interest in architecture schemes that would reuse city spaces including bridges, making them into shops, parks, and houses. Here’s five recent examples.


Ronald Rael, an architect and professor at UC Berkeley’s architecture school, created the “Bay Line,” explicitly inspired by the High Line. Rael proposes saving the East Span of the Bay Bridge, which is set to be demolished, and using it to house a range of functions. Up top would be a 1.9-mile pedestrian and cycling path, as well as 15 acres of parks and gardens, a climbing wall, and tennis courts. Below would be pre-fab housing, retail, swimming pools, and galleries. Rael estimates that it would cost somewhere around $350 million, including $200 million in seismic upgrades:

 Bay Line climbing wall
 Bay Line tennis courts and bicycle path

Max Pritchard was tasked with designing a house that blended in with the natural beauty of a site in Adelaide, Australia. So he lofted it above a ravine carved by a creek. Made of pre-fab materials, it cost a mere $190,000 to build.

Sam noonan - Copyrighted

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, surely noticed when the High Line finally went up. Recently, he resuscitated proposals to build a “Living Bridge” across the Thames, which would be loaded with residential and commercial properties. Johnson has argued that the proposed $132 million cost could be offset by real estate sales. The bridge, if built, would be the first residential bridge in London in 178 years–when the original buildings lining London Bridge were torn down.

Thames Living Bridge

West 8 is a brilliant Dutch landscape-architecture firm. Recently, they completed a beautiful footbridge in Toronto, and they’re putting the finishing touches on a lovely covered bridge in Spain. But Pruned brought our attention to an older South Korean project, which would have tweaked 6.7 miles of unused tram tracks, and turned them into a park, fitted with huge pots, planted with native Korean trees:

South Korea tree bridge
South Korea tree bridge

Maybe it’s because bridges can be so expensive, but the proposals that you see involving them often involve some element of reuse. One case in point is this project by Aristide Antonas, which would fashion a habitable bridge out of reclaimed scraps. Thanks to its modular framework, the entire structure could be disassembled and moved:

Aristide Antonas bridge
 ristide Antonas bridge


[Via Arch Daily, Streets Blog, Pruned, and The Times of London; click the links above for more information and images; picture of Ponte Vecchio via Wikipedia Commons]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.