James Corner is an acclaimed landscape designer and founder of leading edge practice James Corner Field Operations, the team behind many major transformations of public spaces around the world. Their specialty is breathing new life into places that have become overlooked and are falling into disrepair. These are transformed into places where people want to spend time, with sustainability and population growth in mind. Not only do successful public spaces enhance quality of life, but they also have a dramatic affect on the economic value of the surrounding area.
In 2008 they transformed a derelict overgrown train bridge in New York's Chelsea district into an unlikely elevated park for people to relax and experience the city in new ways. In an interview with Time magazine James says that the High Line "is a good example of a found object in the city. A thing that had been discarded and overlooked." They worked together with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro who added that "there was a time when people would go to Central Park to escape the city, to get away. With the High Line, you enter it to enjoy the city." The challenge they had to overcome with this project was making the railway bridge an appealing place for people to visit, while staying true to its historical roots. More successful than they initially imagined, the linear park has become a place for people to meet, relax and escape the ground floor hustle of the city. Just like the Promenade Plantée in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, it follows a lineage of projects creating something new out of industrial remnants of our past.
The challenge is often retaining the site's uniqueness, that with a site like the High Line, he says that "any design needed to amplify those conditions." While the High Line was a reasonably small site, their Staten Island project covered an area four times that of Central Park. Two very different projects, the latter of which was innovative due to the methodology they devised around which a very large site like this could be redeveloped. In this way they are constantly extending the traditional boundaries of landscape architecture.
The firm has taken to working overseas as well, transforming the south hub of London's Queen Elizabeth Park, as well as the urban development of the new city Qianhai in China. Projects like those in Seattle and Qianhai are much more complex and also encompass buildings, infrastructure, transportation, and all the different systems that go into making a city. Qianhai is being built over the next decade to hold an estimated 2 million people, where one of the things they are boasting is that it will be a carbon-neutral, fully sustainable urban centre.
James has an overriding concern for the intimate and larger scale issues of sustainability and lifestyle in cities. The biggest issue he sees over the next two decades is the world's population growing by 3 billion people. You can build more buildings, but the real issue lies in how to provide a high quality public realm. His interests are in these two extremes; in "the poetics of tactility, the beauty of intimacy; and a larger sense of how cities work and how they're designed at that scale."
For V7: Maker, we are very excited to have James channel his innovative mind into an exclusive object that will be included in the parcel. While we can't give any more details at this stage, stay tuned for further updates in the near future.