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Re-thinking space

Before. The old disused railway line in the meat packing district of Manhattan, New York City. Image courtesy of Benjamin Curry.

After. The old railway line has now been turned into Manhattan’s first elevated park – the High Line. Image Courtesy of Geoffrey Greene.

Many of society’s materials, spaces and buildings are unused, discarded and unwanted. Old buildings and factories remain fallow for years, acting as a drain on local communities both financially and emotionally. The trick is to see these spaces and buildings in a more positive light, as resources, assets and opportunities for social innovation. Assets can be reclaimed and re-used and, in the process, environments can be revitalised, social needs can be met and communities energised. One example is the work of ‘activist architect’, Teddy Cruz. Cruz uses ‘waste’ materials from San Diego to build homes, health clinics and other buildings in Tijuana. He has become well-recognised for his low-income housing designs, and for his ability to turn overlooked and unused spaces within a dense, urban neighbourhood into a live-able, workable environment. Another example is the regeneration of Westergasfabriek by ReUse in Amsterdam, or the transformation of an old disused elevated railway in New York into an urban park – the High Line.