Viaducts in the urban fabric

March 17, 2010

Viaduct des arts, Paris

Viaduct des arts, Paris

Rail viaducts have being a fixture in numerous cities since the introduction of the railway. They can be considered as an urban blight and objectively often disrupt the urban fabric, but here we present some examples showing that it can be different. Surprisingly enough, it seems that it is a reconsideration of the purpose of disused viaduct in the city [2] which has lead to rethink of its urban integration. Typically this consist to bring, under the viaduct, urban activities contributing to the street life: That means not considering the Viaduct as part of the street itself, but as a building lining up the public space.

Vienna, Austria
Viaduct in “median”


A viaduct in Vienna, once a barrier in the middle of an artery, now is a building lining streets on its both sides. Note how the shops lining the street capitalize on the once a median separation (credit photo: Architekten Tillner)

Buenos Aires, Argentina
A Viaduct lining up a park

In Buenos Aires, the viaduct function, is enhanced by street life contributing activities. Again here the barrier nature of the viaduct is fully assumed, separating a park of its urban environment, and eventually reinforced, with this viaduct arch reconsidered as a “passage”, clearly indicating the “human scale” nature of the expected traffic and enforcing the “oasis” feeling of the park (credit photo Polycentric Linear City)

London, UK

Wotton Street, The structure on the right is a viaduct!


Only around 50% of the londonian Tube is underground. this and the numerous railway network left the British capitale heavily sliced by Viaduct “cut”. Lately tremendous effort has been taken to address the issue, as witnessed by the project “Light at the End of the Tunnel” in the context of the “crossriver partner ship program”

Paris, France
Beside the much acclaimed viaduct des arts (a former railway viaduct), Paris is also well furnished in metro viaduct. They offer to us an opportunities to showcase some idea eventually not working that “well” when you treat the space under viaduct as public space.

The Viaduct of Bercy in Paris, while offering an appealing look doesn’t work that well as a bike path host: the cyclist has basically no visibility, and the “enclosed” nature of the viaduct prevent natural washing of the pavement (credit photo: zagreus)


The space below Paris viaduct is rarely appropriated by the public, one reason could be due to the fact that the steel girder structure is pretty noisy on train passage. The fact that the space is in the median line of boulevard is not helping to draw public naturally. bike path could make a better use, but viaduct piles are as many hazard limiting the visibility of the cyclist (one will note that the Richmond viaduct turn out to be more appropriate to such an use) (credit photo, Duncjam and moonmeister)

One will find some other example on the web [3], but the one exhibited here tend to demonstrate that the integration of a viaduct in the urban fabric is something perfectly doable, backing the effort done on the Richmond viaduct.


[1] Light at the end of the tunnel: Transforming railway viaducts in central London

[2] from the viaduct des arts in Paris to the HighLine in New York, there are numerous of disused viaduct going thru a renaissance life, with usually the patform being transformed in a green public space ( a list of some projects)

[3] Noticeabily The reader will find other similar example for Berlin at the HumanTransit blog, and more generally could like to take a look at a dedicated thread on skyscrapercity forum

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2 Responses to “Viaducts in the urban fabric”

  1. Ted K. Says:

    The link to “Light at the End of the Tunnel” has died. The new link is : http://crossriverpartnership.org/projects/light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-let/

  2. Ted K. Says:

    CRP’s present website is a bit of muddle. More on the LET project can be found on their publications page : http://crossriverpartnership.org/publications


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