The London borough of Camden is known for its music scene, its market, and the canals that run through it, but in just a few years, a new addition to the Camden area will be a highlight that’s quite literally high up in the air. Plans are in the works for what has been dubbed the Camden Highline, which will link Camden to King’s Cross.
The name and concept no doubt bring to mind the New York City Highline, a stretch of park created on disused railway viaducts, but those things won’t be the only commonality between the two elevated parks. The Camden Highline recently announced that James Corner and his firm (James Corner Field Operations), who were behind the design of the NYC High Line, have been selected to be the lead landscape architect for the London project.
In all, 76 bids were made to lead the design team, but James Corner Field Operations, who were also behind the South Park of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, was chosen by a jury. Corner’s firm will lead an international team that will include vPPR Architects (a firm based in nearby Kentish Town) and London artist Hew Locke, to create plans for the stretch of Camden.
The Camden Highline is a unique, grassroots charity that has been in the works for a few years and is largely community-led. It started with a University College London geography researcher, Oliver O’Brien, who was scouring London for places that would work for a new linear park. O’Brien found such a location on a three-quarters of a mile stretch of railway viaducts that runs from Camden Gardens and to York Way. The idea was eventually picked up by Camden Town Unlimited and over the subsequent years, work has progressed on the idea.
The original intent behind the project was to rejuvenate the London borough, offer new green space to the area, stimulate businesses, and help mitigate the amount of footfall that travels along the narrow footpaths of Regent’s Canal, which already connect King’s Cross and Camden. However, between the tolls of the pandemic and Brexit, the Camden Highline will offer a “positive feelgood investment to help London come out of all the negative vibes of the past couple of years,” according to Corner.
While similar in approach to the High Line in New York City, the overall feel of the Camden Highline will be quite different. The viaduct will be shared with railways still used for the Northern Line, one of the Underground lines, and the cityscape around the viaducts consists of relatively low buildings in comparison to NYC.
“Camden has its own dishevelled, edgy, eclectic feel,” Corner continued. “It has its own vibe and own context that we want to leverage and play on. It’s not New York, so this elevated walk should be unique to Camden.”
It is estimated that the project will cost around £35 million and take roughly three years to complete. First designs will take a number of months to complete and in the meantime, locals will have the opportunity to give their input. To offer more information on the project, on March 11th, the Camden Highline charity will be hosting an online Q&A with James Corner Field Operations, vPPR Architects, Camden Highline Chair and Jury member Richard Terry, CEO Simon Pitkeathley and Caroline Cole from Colander Associates.