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During my travels to and around London — particularly the South Bank of the Thames — I’m always impressed with the city’s use of formerly-industrial archway space.

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Most often, the arches are structural elements of railway overpasses. Many of the archways are used for thoroughfares, and many still remain unused, empty and neglected.

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But a majority of them, in my experience, have been transformed to office spaces, gyms, restaurants, cafes and architecture offices. These novel uses for former air-space are inspiring. These spaces feel good – the sweeping semi-circular roof envelops the interior, and large windows allow for copious amounts of light.

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Many of these transformed archway spaces remain under used elevated railroad tracks. This is a brilliant example of the possibility for multiple land use in cities: functions and services need not be separated — industrial here, residential there, commercial there. Rather, they are better side by side, or better yet, on top of each other, where they cause contrast, interest and dramatically animate each other.

(I also feel the potential of multiple land use when I’m in Amsterdam’s Westerpark: where you can look over the landscape and see city residences, commerce, leisure space, gardens, farms, portlands, and railways, trains passing by every few minutes).

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Another strategy London employs for its thoroughfare-archway spaces — those that have roads running under them — is the installation of novel public light art. An otherwise menacing jog of a road underneath a bridge is transformed into a space to be inhabited and enjoyed. These ‘under-the-bridge’ spaces are imbued  with a sense of care, and as a result, comfort.

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