3rd July 2017

First site visit

Today I met my collaborator at IIT – Ron Henderson, head of the landscape architecture department. Ron has recently started a lecture series on ‘long and narrow’ urban spaces, and we discussed a number of precedent projects around the world that I hadn’t yet come across.

I was then given a flying tour of the disused Kenwood line by car – my first glimpse of the structure I have ogled at on Google Street View for the last 8 months. The blanket of vegetation on top allows the embankment to go almost undetected in the landscape, blending in seamlessly with the grassy areas either side.

Ron pointed out that the lowest bridges have been removed between several sections, in order to comply with modern height regulations for lorry clearance. If reconnected in a future design scheme, they would need to arch up over the road to meet current legislation – an incline that would surely be impossible for train carriages yet easy for pedestrians and cyclists, my point being that the Kenwood line is even more useless to its current owners (CSX Transportation, I believe) than I had originally thought, without the possibility for continued freight use. As such, the city would be in a good position to negotiate a fair deal for the land.

Also worth noting is the general atmosphere of neglect surrounding the site, which manifests itself through the combination of broken, overgrown pavements with a lack of shops and restaurants and a severe absence of people outdoors. Ron tells me that the Indiana station on the CTA green line, which adjoins the Kenwood embankment (see cover photo above), is the fifth most underused CTA station in Chicago – I can see why. The only reason to come here would be to visit friends or family. Other than housing, there is nothing.