Finding inspiration in railways tracks and shipping containers

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Aug. 23, 2011

Manhattan’s High Line opened its outdoor roller skating rink a few weeks ago. Part of High Line’s Section 2 (which runs between West 20th and West 30th Streets and opened June 8th), the 8,000 square-foot rink will feature three skate sessions every day, theme nights and deejays. Entry is $12 for adults, $10 for children, and includes a pair of “old school” rental skates. It’s pretty cool.

It reminded me that despite tough times some really incredible developments have emerged in the last couple of years—plenty of which have made use of pre-existing industrial space.

A good thing too. We’re running out of space, after all.

It’s one of those debates that no one has the answer to, but one thing is certain: we need to put on our thinking caps and start brainstorming ideas. They may all not be brilliant – some will be downright terrible – but there will always be a few gems we can look back on for inspiration.

This post is a shout-out to those inspiring city planners and innovative developers who thought long and hard about creating something different—and, more importantly, then went ahead and did it! And I hope it serves as a reminder to all of us – whether we are planners or architects or lowly marketers – what thinking outside the box can do.

Image credit: Iwan Baan

1) Set atop once-abandoned railway tracks, Manhattan’s High Line transforms rusty rails track into a wild meadow 30 feet above street level.

Image credit: lovelyspaces.com

2) More than 35 years ago, Ricardo Bofill transformed an old cement factory in Barcelona, Spain, into this.

Image credit: Fin Fahey, Flickr

3) Over the past several years, Europe has keenly led the way in using shipping containers for everything from student housing in Holland to modern prefabricated live-work studios in Container City, London, England.

Image credit: thedistillerydistrict.com

4) During the 1800s, the Gooderham and Worts Distillery was a huge manufacturing district in the city of Toronto and the largest distillery in the British Empire. Today the Distillery District is not only Toronto’s only heritage district; it’s one of the city’s largest hubs for arts and culture.

Image credit: Maurice Jassak, seegranvilleisland.com

5) Once an industrial manufacturing area, the peninsula that is Granville Island is now a major tourist destination and working neighbourhood with a community of craft studios for artists and artisans and a bustling public market.

Image credit: Capatti Staubach Landschaftsarchitekten / Christoph Mayer Architekt

6) Berlin’s Tempelhof. The first airport-cum-park is something to look forward to. For the most part, the park looks exactly as it did when the last passenger plane took off in 2008. Some peripheral areas will be turned into new flats, but most of the site will be replanted and landscaped to host the International Garden Show in 2017.

Image credit: suntowerbuilding.com

7) Vancouver’s Sun Tower is also being given a new lease on life. Updated, polished, and re-invigorated, Sun Tower has been expressly redesigned for creative professionals from all disciplines.


David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

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David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more





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