Sometime next year, Malayan Railway will vacate its station at Tanjong Pagar; its trains terminating at Woodlands instead.
Over the last few days, there have been many letters to the press giving suggestions for using the land that will be freed up. Frankly, I think we all know that with land parcels of any size, the major use will be, drumroll please — high density development.
However, there are also ribbons of land on which tracks currently run. They may be too narrow for building. They could be annexed to adjacent parcels, but I hope they are kept for recreational use. Singapore’s quite keen on park connectors, and I hope we see more of those.
My problem with our park connectors is that they generally don’t have much character. One looks not a lot different from another. There’s a lack of creativity.
So, for inspiration, let me show you six photos I took of New York’s Highline Park. They are not good photos; it was a dull wintry day and the setting sun was often on the wrong side of the lens. But they should be enough to show you why Highline Park won much praise from landscape designers the day it opened and how New Yorkers have fallen in love with it since.
The “park” once used to be a disused elevated railway (picture above) that mostly carried meat to and from the Meatpacking District, a part of New York that was exactly what its name implied — an ugly area of abbatoirs and butcheries. The area has since been much gentrified and as part of the process, the elevated railway was marked for demolition.
In the end, as you can see, it was saved, and converted into an elevated park. But the designers used both its histories (as a working railway and as an abandoned site) and its elevated position to lend a unique character to it. The next picture shows you how they not only kept some parts of the railway track, but also the wilderness that is so refreshing to see in downtown New York – though I’m pretty sure the wild plants were very precisely positioned and managed.
Here’s another view. The wild grass has grown tall and obscured the sections of track still there:
Other sections of the elevated track were made into pedestrian concourses, with recliners:
Look closely and there is a surprise. The recliners are on rollers mounted on the old track. You can push the seats around, e.g. to sit closer to your friend.
Here and there, the railway crossed a road. The designers treated each crossing differently. Some have seating; you could sit and watch the city lights change as day turns into night. This one below gives you a visual contrast between the wilderness of the foreground and the urbanness beyond.
We could make a tourist attraction in Singapore out of the disused ribbon of land the way New York has made one out of its track. All it takes is flair.