Manchester plans to build a High Line-style park over the city center

An Exportable Concept

Manchester plans to build a High Line-style park over the city center

London-based firm Twelve Architects & Masterplanners is designing a temporary installation atop the abandoned Castlefield Viaduct in Manchester. (Courtesy Twelve Architects & Masterplanners)

It is safe to say that the Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed High Line in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District has had an outsized impact when it comes to the reappropriation of postindustrial remains. Cities such as Philadelphia and Atlanta have completed their own similarly ambitious schemes, namely Rail Park and the BeltLine, and Buffalo is currently mulling over proposals for its own abandoned elevated rail line. Now the concept is picking up steam across the pond, where, in Manchester, architecture firm Twelve Architects & Masterplanners has released renderings for a temporary installation and park atop a disused viaduct.

Located in North West England, Manchester is synonymous with the United Kingdom’s inexorable rise during the Industrial Revolution and that nation’s postcolonial shift to a service economy. Similar to stateside cities, the transition has left heaps of industrial heritage disused and decayed, and, of course, ripe for design intervention. One such piece of forlorn infrastructure is the 1892-built Castlefield Viaduct, which formerly carried heavy rail traffic to the Manchester Central railway station and was abandoned in 1969 with the closure of that depot.

An aerial rendering of the park
The temporary park will span approximately 1,300 feet and is located in the southwestern corner of the city center. (Courtesy Twelve Architects & Masterplanners)

The installation is set to open next summer and will transform the National Trust-protected structure into an approximately 1,300-foot landscaped walkway. The park will be split into three zones: the first will form something of a welcome area with amenities, the second zone will take visitors through a portion of the viaduct that has undergone minimal changes, and the third zone will be landscaped with plants and shrubs and will include space for art installations.

“This pilot concept seeks to marry the city’s proud industrial heritage with a modern urban park concept, more reflective of the Manchester of today,” said the design team in a statement. “The principal architectural challenge is to achieve the transition from hard grey metal into a soft green oasis, a place people can relax and unwind in nature while immersed in the viaduct’s history.”

Image of the overgrown Castlefield Viaduct
The Castlefield Viaduct has been abandoned since 1969 with the closure of the Manchester Central depot. (Courtesy National Trust, Howard Bristol)

The project joins an existing trend of revitalization in this southwestern corner of Manchester that includes a massive OMA-designed culture venue dubbed The Factory and the much-celebrated Science and Industry Museum, as well as a spate of residential development.

Following the pilot project, the National Trust will determine further ideas for the structure’s long-term future.