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Infrastructure, Lost and Found

In Moscow, Seattle, and Shenzhen, crumbling architecture provides a blueprint for new development.

People change much more quickly than cities, and eventually their needs may outpace a city’s ancient capacity. That’s why the example of New York’s High Line–repurposing outdated infrastructure for current requirements–has spawned a global mandate for urban change.

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Moscow’s new park

Near the city center, architects from Wowhaus turned a four-lane highway (above) into a tree-filled park with bike and pedestrian paths, art studios, and hills that can be used for sledding in the winter (at right). The park will connect with a longer bike and pedestrian trail that will eventually run throughout the city. Explains Wowhaus cofounder Dmitry Likin, “It’s part of a project to integrate underdeveloped Moscow embankments into city life.”

Seattle’s new neighborhood

A sprawling mall parking lot has been transformed into a pedestrian-oriented community, Thornton Place, featuring hundreds of LEED–certified apartments, new retail stores, and a park. “This is one element of what will ultimately be a very high-density urban center,” says Bert Gregory, CEO of Mithun, the architec-ture firm involved with the project. “It’s also part of a story about the nature of urban America and the evolution of an automobile culture.”

Shenzhen, China’s new farm

A once-abandoned glass factory became the footprint of a 20,000-square-foot urban farm, producing cabbage, chard, and bok choy for the port city’s residents. Designed as part of the Shenzhen–Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale, the space was created to serve as a model for food production in vacant spots throughout China.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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