hassell discusses holistic landmark study on corridors
Global firm HASSELL has released a new landmark study — Corridors: Designing linear infrastructure in a non-linear world — that examines how highways, railways, waterways, and high streets, can be designed to deliver greater value for all, including economic benefits, social connectivity, and reduced habitat fragmentation. The study’s lead author, Camilla Siggaard-Andersen, argues that a holistic approach is urgently needed to tackle the shared multidimensionality of corridors, one that considers all potential benefits and drawbacks while including all stakeholders. More importantly, ‘the report compels us to understand corridors as networked places, designed to interact synergistically with a much wider, non-linear context,’ she tells designboom.
The report ultimately proposes to break down silos and facilitate holistic thinking through the creation of a common taxonomy and associated workshop toolkit that can help identify and assess the potential impacts of corridors and to develop integrated solutions that meet the needs of all. This is a challenge of significant proportion. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, the global road, railway, and waterway networks are an estimated 40 million km, 1.3 million km, and 631,000 km long, respectively. These could loop 1,000 times around the Earth, causing high levels of connectivity and fragmentation concurrently. And while built linear infrastructure usually brings significant economic opportunities, the social and especially environmental costs are rapidly mounting.
Hongkou North Bund Waterfront Landscape Design, Shanghai, China | all images courtesy Hassell
how breaking boundaries can redefine linear infrastructure
The firm‘s new research report does not shy away from presenting the complexity behind designing corridors. Moving towards a holistic approach requires new motives, technologies, and value definitions that can cut across administrative, physical, cultural, and professional boundaries; designing linear infrastructure must increasingly involve thinking beyond traditional methods. From Metro North West in Sydney to Longgang River Blueway in Shenzen, China, and Colma Creek Adaptation in San Francisco, the report showcases over 30 corridor projects that achieve positive outcomes – for people, the planet, and prosperity. Such a leap in practice demands a coming together of different industries and experts — governments, engineers, architects, decision-makers — to plan and manage these multi-layered corridors.
Having been involved in more than 100 corridors projects worldwide, totaling over 1,200 linear kilometers, Hassell is undoubtedly bringing in new waves of change to linear infrastructures: highlight projects include a planting scheme of 250,000 native plants to re-establish the natural habitat corridor along the Southern Expressway in Adelaide, Australia, and Hassell’s West Bund Waterfront Public Realm that reclaims former industrial wastelands in Shanghai to regenerate 11.4kms along the Huangpu River. Wanting to unpack the report’s extensive studies, designboom sat with HASSELL Camilla Siggaard-Andersen, who walked us through her holistic vision for future corridors.
Longgang River Blueway, Shenzhen, China | image © Chill Shine
interview: Camilla Siggaard-Andersen unpacks her vision
designboom (DB): Walk us through the main sections of the Corridors report and how you’ve adapted it as a toolkit for experts across different industries.
Camilla Siggaard Andersen (CSA): ‘Corridors: Designing linear infrastructure in a non-linear world’ takes a cross-sector look at the impact of built corridors on people and the planet and the impact of urban development on natural corridors. From highways to byways, rivers to railways, our planet is crisscrossed by linear pieces of infrastructure primarily designed or used to facilitate the movement of matter across space. These corridors are often envisioned as conduits for creating resilient communities, enhancing economic prosperity, and fuelling innovation. However, when considered in isolation, they can inadvertently create barriers and degrade habitats, resulting in system fragility and decline. The report sets out why, when faced with serious social and environmental challenges, we can no longer afford to persist in constructing linear assets focused solely on a single use. By combining insights and lessons across all the major linear infrastructure sectors, derived from interviews, roundtable discussions, academic literature, media articles, and our own project experiences, our research has identified a common language, shared objectives, and a new approach to breaking down the prevailing silos. We present these as a discussion toolkit to inspire greater cross-sector collaboration towards achieving more holistic outcomes. In conclusion, the report compels us to understand corridors as networked places designed to interact synergistically with a much broader, non-linear context.
Western Program Alliance – level crossing, Victoria, Australia
DB: Based on your study, which part of our globe is most in need of holistic and regenerative corridors?
CSA: While the study does not evaluate the needs of specific regions against each other, our review of literature from Europe, North America, Australia, China, and Southeast Asia would suggest that every place is more or less faced with the same challenges. In China and Asia, waterways restoration is particularly urgent, while in the UK, the pervasiveness of road systems is a major issue of community fragmentation and habitat degradation. There is also a significant opportunity to regenerate legacy rail networks across the US, Australia, and the UK. However, the overall point of the report is that well-designed, well-integrated corridors are essential to the livelihood of people and nature everywhere.
Cherry St level crossing, Werribee, Australia | image © Sarah Pannell via Hassell on Instagram
DB: As a company that has completed over 100 linear infrastructures, which HASSELL-designed corridor best exemplifies your holistic and multi-benefit vision?
CSA: All our projects strive to take a holistic approach to design, focusing on delivering benefits that extend well beyond the initial brief and set site boundary. Our work on adapting Colma Creek in San Mateo County, California, is an excellent example of how a linear space that has historically become a barrier may be transformed into a valuable asset for a place and its communities. Through the restoration of natural habitats and the establishment of new access routes, the project not only enhances the creek’s flood resilience but also enriches the region with recreational, ecological, and economic advantages. Moreover, the project has evolved in tandem with a series of community engagement initiatives, including the development of an educational publication for children aimed at raising awareness and inspiring the next generation of stewards for our waterways. In both Melbourne and Perth, we are involved in several level crossing removal projects, which are inherently motivated by a desire to unlock various benefits for future generations. By reconfiguring the alignment of rail, road, and pedestrian traffic, these projects achieve increased capacity of the regional transport systems while also delivering safer, greener, and more enjoyable local environments.