Underpass Art & Parks: 15 Fun Projects Reclaiming Disused Urban Space

Climbing walls, skate parks, art installations, theaters and
even miniature marinas take advantage of the cathedral-like
spaces beneath highways and bridges, revitalizing formerly
disused and depressed square footage in urban areas. In cities
around the world, underpasses are often fenced off, strewn with
trash and generally unappreciated, but these intervention
projects reclaim the space in fun and creative ways that
benefit the community.

Folly for a Flyover by Assemble, England

“Starting with the idea that how spaces are imagined is often
as important as their physical characteristics in determining
their use, the Folly reclaimed the future of the site by
re-imagining its past,” says ASSEMBLE of its ‘Folly for a
installation beneath a disused motorway underpass
in Hackney Wick. “The new ‘fairy tale’ for the site described
the Folly as the home of a stubborn landlord who refused to
move to make way for the motorway, which was subsequently built
around him, leaving him and his pitched roof stuck between the
East and Westbound lanes. The Folly hosted an extensive program
of cinema, performance and play… by day the Folly hosted a
cafe, events and boat trips exploring the surrounding
waterways; at night, audiences congregated on the building’s
steps to watch screenings, from blockbusting animation classics
to early cinema accompanied by a live score.

A8ernA, Zaanstad Underpass Installation by NL Architects

Another underpass project offering access to the adjacent
waterway is
A8ernA by NL Architects
, located on the river Zaan in the
Zoog aan de Zaan village near Amsterdam. The architects
describe the new highway, built on columns, as a “brutal cut in
the urban tissue.” Their installation attempts to heal this cut
while taking advantage of the cathedral-like space, creating an
“optimistic intervention” encouraging a new type of urban life,
and includes a supermarket, flower and fish shop, parking, a
park and a ‘graffiti gallery.’ There’s also a skate bowl, a
mini-marina, a soccer field and a small hilly park.

Underpass Park, Toronto

Toronto’s Underpass Park
is not only the most extensive
park to ever be built beneath an overpass in Canada, but one of
the most unusual parks of its kind throughout the world.
Transforming a derelict and underused space into a new urban
neighborhood feature and pedestrian passageway, the park turns
what was formerly a barrier between the north and south parts
of the community into a connection. Murals by world-renowned
graffiti artists, playgrounds, sculptural installations, sports
fields and other amenities draw locals in to engage with the
space on an unprecedented level.

Ballroom Luminoso Installation by JB Public Art, San Antonio

The I-35 freeway underpass in San Antonio briefly became
’ thanks to a public
art installation
by JB Public Art, featuring six
color-changing chandeliers made of recycled bicycle parts and
sprockets. After dark, the lanterns would light up, casting
intricate gear-shaped shadows all over the concrete structure.

Seattle’s Fremont Troll

Frequently popping up in movies and television shows set in
Seattle, the Fremont Troll
is a public sculpture by four local artists set beneath a
bridge in the Fremont neighborhood. The piece won a
neighborhood competition in 1990 as an idea to revitalize what
was, at the time, a dumping ground. The troll sculpture is
clutching an actual Volkswagen Beetle.

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