Everyone Wins

Five winning submissions picked in Buffalo park ideas competition

A grassy portion of the extant DL&W rail line in Buffalo (Abby Songin)

A competition to revitalize a 1.5-mile-long elevated railway in Buffalo, New York, has ended with five winners, and all five proposals will be combined to shape an RFP aimed at breathing new life into the abandoned rail corridor.

The Western New York Land Conservancy launched the Reimagining the DL&W Corridor: International Design Ideas Competition in November of 2018 to revive an abandoned stretch of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) railway that runs from Canalside to the Solar City plant. Much like the High Line or the proposed QueensWay in the southern half of the state, the DL&W railway will be turned into an elevated park that will unite formerly-industrial neighborhoods with a continuous rewilded landscape.

A large poster depicting an aerial view of downtown Buffalo, New York, with several biking and hiking paths carved into the ridged railway

Reclaiming Hill & Del from MNLA (Courtesy MNLA)

A large poster depicting an aerial view of downtown Buffalo, New York, with several biking and hiking paths carved into the ridged railway

Reclaiming Hill & Del (Courtesy MNLA)

“Reclaiming Hill & Del” from the New York City–based Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects (MNLA) took first prize. Their ambitious proposal turns the corridor into an all-season multimodal path to the Buffalo River, using the varied topography of the ridge to add excitement to the routes. Native plants would be used to return the path to a state of nature.

A large poster with the words The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer at the top, depicting multimodal transportation options overlain the Buffalo River

The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer, which proposes revitalizing the rail line’s landscapes, creating meandering paths, and integrating with the city at street level. (Courtesy the Western New York Land Conservancy)

A large poster with the words The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer at the top, depicting multimodal transportation options overlain the Buffalo River

The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer (Courtesy the Western New York Land Conservancy)

“The Dell, The Link & The Wanderer (DLW),” a collaboration between Marvel Architects, BuroHappold, horticulturalist and landscape architect Patrick Cullina, and graphic and placemaking studio NOWHERE Office took second place. The DLW would divide the railway into several distinct ecologies while threading through the neighborhoods. The Dell portion would bring secluded, wooded areas to the former rail line; the Link is where the new park would integrate with existing streets at grade; and visitors can Wander through meandering paths along the water’s edge.

A multi-use recreational circuit is superimposed over a series of hills lining the Buffalo River

The Loop Line draws inspiration from the High Line to create a cohesive elevated park. (Courtesy OSA)

A multi-use recreational circuit is superimposed over a series of hills lining the Buffalo River

The Loop Line (Courtesy OSA)

Third place was split between two proposals, “The Loop Line” and “Railn.” The Loop Line comes courtesy of the Brooklyn-based OSA, which wanted to turn the railway from a “barrier” to a “linear urban organizer” that capitalizes on investment along the Buffalo River. Unlike the other projects, The Loop Line was conceived as “seasonally inverted,” showcasing the majesty of Buffalo’s winters (even if they are buried in snow).  

A railway running to the Buffalo River is shown as being broken into six nodes, with each set aside for different purposes

Railn would break the railway into several distinct “nodes” and overlay axes of recreation, nature, and economic betterment over the corridor. (Courtesy the Western New York Land Conservancy)

A railway running to the Buffalo River is shown as being broken into six nodes, with each set aside for different purposes

Railn (Courtesy the Western New York Land Conservancy)

Railn was conceived of by a team of six graduate landscape architecture students from Beijing Forestry University. The project would overlay different axes, including transportation, quality of life, and economic improvements over the railway to create an inclusive, multimodal park.

An axonometric diagram breaking the former railway into several discrete sections and renderings of steel sculptures and furniture on the revitalized route

The Del, which proposes turning the former rail corridor into the “Steel and Rail Heritage Trail,” which would be dotted with steel animal sculptures. (Matt Renkas)

An axonometric diagram breaking the former railway into several discrete sections and renderings of steel sculptures and furniture on the revitalized route

The Del (Matt Renkas)

Finally, the community choice award went to Matt Renkas, a SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry grad and Buffalo resident, for his “The Del” proposal. The Del would integrate the industrial remnants along the new park into the landscape and include scrap steel sculptures of animals representing Haudenosaunee clans would dot the DL&W Corridor. The Del would also include several earthwork theaters and staging areas for performances and art shows.

With the ideas competition complete, the Land Conservancy will launch a Request For Proposals for conceptual and schematic designs later this summer, integrating ideas from all of the submissions they received, not just the winners.

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