Freshkills Park, New York City – a Landscape Urbanism project by James Corner

With luck, I will have to change my mind when it is completed. But my present view of James Corner’s design for Freshkills Park is that it is a dull design for a dull place. It reminds me of many landscape reclamation projects completed in the north of England in the 1970s. ‘Before’ photographs, intended to shock the viewer, showed heaps of mining waste with scrubby vegetation. ‘DERELICTION’ we were told. ‘After’ photographs, were of several varieties: the mouse-under-the-carpet, the dog-under-the-carpet and the whale-under-the-carpet. The ‘carpet’ was an expensively created layer of greeny-yellow turf with a sparsity of dying trees. This is what the clients wanted, it has to be said, but the results were of very little ecological, visual or social value.
Another Freshkills puzzle is why it should be regarded as exemplifying a new approach to landscape architecture. I see Landscape Urbanism as postmodern and Freshkills as a good example of McHargian Ecological Design – which was a modernist approach. James Corner’s design for the High Line is excellent – so I remain optimistic that Fresh Kills will turn out well. I re-visited Richard Wilson’s wonderful 20:50 sump oil installation at the Saatchi Gallery recently and it made me wonder about Fresh Kills. As an access-route, why not cut a glass-sided trench though the heap of rubbish so that visitors can watch the decay progress? We could see leachate dripping onto old motherboards and the occasional pair of mating rats?. Then there could be a flare to burn off a tiny fraction of the methane.

4 thoughts on “Freshkills Park, New York City – a Landscape Urbanism project by James Corner

  1. jerry

    I watched the video three times, unfortunately, I did not understand the design strategy of this park, what they want to make to people. More unfortunately, I read your post twice and did not understand your strategy of the design, either. it seems that you only want to keep a section of this park of exhibition. Also, please mind that rat only come out look for food in late night, not day time.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Here is some more information about James Corner’s design
      Much emphasis is placed on habitat creation, very properly. Less is said about the social and aesthetic aspect of the design. I am not able to explain these aspects and have commented on the design method rather than the design result. I think it is a McHarg approach and can be called ‘ecological design’. I do not see much evidence of the Tschumi-Koolhaas ideas which extended McHarg’s approach to create what was at first called Landscape Urbanism and is now being called Ecological Urbanism. I have read that Corner is distancing himself from Landscape Urbanism but am not clear why or when he began doing this.
      Rats are nocturnal but they also tend to be active at dawn and dusk – and they make reasonably well behaved pets.

  2. jerry

    Why Highline design is a good design, especially a good landscape urbanism? is landscape urbanism a profession or a idea? how to make it come true?

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I have not visited the High Line yet but it looks a really good place to me and I would love to see it. As to why it is classified as landscape urbanism, I cannot really say. In my view Landscape Urbanism is a design method for landscape architecture: I am writing an eBook which will explain my understanding of it.


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