Dr. Jack Ahern, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Dept Peter Kumble, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning Dept
The expansions of the transportation and roadway have made many cities in the United States having the interstates or highways cut through the city center. Springfield’s North End is one of them. The Interstate highway I-91 from Chicopee to South Spring has separated three North End neighborhoods into two sides; Liberty Height, Memorial Square, and Brightwood. The separation has not only changed community relation but also created many dramatic problems and consequences to the neighborhoods such as having disconnected access to the Connecticut River or the Van Horn Park, creating some pollution in water, air, sound, and other health issues. More than 20 year after the expansion that the separation still cannot be fixed and problems still go on. As landscape architect, we see the above constraint of the highway as an opportunity. Having the highways also create many left over spaces along or underneath them. The Interstate I-91 has four lanes road, raised up 20 feet of the ground, and left the undeveloped area roughly around 100 feet on each side of the road. The idea is to turn the negative space (highway leftover area) into the positive living system (four co-ecological systems). Using the landscape urbanism concept as a lens (or medium) seeing the big scale solution for the unseen, unsolved problems, and developing the ecological process to utilize those areas.
That brings to an introduction of the sustainable system, the Four Co-Ecological system in process over time, based on the understanding the Springfield North End existing conditions and problems, and Landscape Urbanism theory, for solving the problems to the city: 1) A Green Highway: corridor buffer and connection, 2) Hydrological/ Embankment Design and management, 3) Energy Efficiency Zone and Renewable Energy 4) Sustainable Infrastructural Highway Materials.
First, to establish the green corridors along the highway that functions as a buffer from air and sound pollutions from the highway as well as the green space and connection for people in both neighborhoods. Second is to cope with the storm water from highway and the hydrological condition along the highway. Make it cleaner naturally using such as anaerobic digestion before piping to the river. Third, wind, sun, and tides are three resources within the closed proximity to the highway that will be able to use for producing some energies to subsidies the cost of energy. Bringing in the local sustainable materials for maintenances and construction, like some recycled industrial goods, utilizing the highway on all sides, or growing the vertical plants or gardens. All four integrated system working as a single machine unit processing in a circle over time for the future single social-culture of the North End neighborhood.
Based on the 497A urban design studio as the fundamental information and guide line to understand the overall areas and data, other case studies, studio projects, and scholar sources. The research scope will look at the cities with the similar problems around the world for applicable solutions, programs, and designs. The goal is to use the landscape urbanism as a framework to establish a system for dealing with the large scale design challenge, find more capable system of organizing the highway city, enhance the urban user experience, and solve the air, sound, and water pollution issues. The research result should remind of how the road construction development had created the strong conflicts with the neighborhoods, provide the better understanding the design ideas of the problem approaching for this type of urban problem, and use for the future department research.