Future Highways Don’t Have to Divide Neighborhoods or Nature

No need to choose between highways and habitats. Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz

Highway expansion is seemingly a fact of life. More people want to be able to travel and, in a country with an aversion to functional public transport, making more highways always seems to be the go-to option to turn that into a reality. Building an eight-lane highway cuts a barrier through the countryside and communities, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

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Increasingly, highway planners are looking for ways to reduce the impact their new roadways have on neighborhoods and nature. A new project at Houston’s Memorial Park has taken this way of thinking a step further by reuniting two areas of parkland that were separated by the construction of a six-lane parkway in the 1950s. According to Architectural Digest:

“The space, which is the largest wilderness park in Houston, has been open to the public since 1924. But in the 1940s and ’50s, as the prominence of the automobile increased and the city expanded beyond its traditional core, the park was seen as a logical place to locate a six-lane parkway, connecting the Downtown district with the emerging Uptown district to the west.

“Like many infrastructure projects of that era, this roadway, Memorial Drive, scythed a broad paved path through vibrant public space, bisecting the park into two distinct and disparate sections, one above the road and one below.”

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All part of the master plan.Image: Nelson Byrd Woltz

But now, 70 years later, landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz worked with the city of Houston to reimagine the roadway and its relationship with Memorial Park.

Thomas Woltz, owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz, told Architectural Digest: “Our idea in the comprehensive plan was to create a massive earthwork that would cross the six lanes of highway. So, we designed four high performance concrete …


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