I am working on a plan to drag a network of bike paths from my city’s network of old train lines and factories, and so have been keeping my eye out for precedents. Park Duisburg Nord in Germany, by architects Latz + Partner, is a standout. Where I am assuming the greenways I’m drawing could only be paid for if developers can include some affordable housing, Park Duisburg Nord has been borne almost purely from a brief to make parklands. Oh, but these Germans are cunning. Where the French would call in Claes Oldenburg to punctuate wastelands with interest, here they have allowed industrial ruins to stand for Claes Oldenburgs. Rusty old boilers and slag heaps remain as though they were aqueducts built by the Romans.
What interests me though, is the network of rail trails, linking institutions, neighbourhoods, indeed numerous cities, across a vast region. It is an octopus of a park. As if overnight, industry has vacated and made way for a network of so-called “industrial heritage trails”, protecting cyclists completely from drivers. These leave drivers free to text, check twitter, creep over the limit, and by whatever creative means they can come up with, go about killing each other, safe in the knowledge that an alternative space now exists, for Germany’s more valuable citizens.