Edinburgh, Scotland, is crisscrossed by bicycle lanes. But in order for those lanes to work in alleviating traffic, they have to connect, and the historic thoroughfare known as Leith Walk currently cuts right down the middle of two major bike routes. Biomorphis, a local design firm, has proposed a a solution to this problem in the form of the Leith Walk Regeneration, a bridge project that would link the East bicycle paths to the West of the city.
Taking a cue from New York’s High Line, the firm sees the Leith Walk Regeneration as more than just a pedestrian bridge, and more than just a new use for an old set of train tracks that have fallen into disuse (since 1890). The firm sees this half-kilometer (0.3 miles) of bike paths and gardens as a way to bring ecology back to an old city, creating a landmark for the community — a way for people to reclaim the urban environment from cars.
In keeping with that deep green vision, Biomorphis’ Regeneration bridge (which comes to us via ArchDaily) relies on locally and sustainably sourced timber, culled from the surrounding countryside and crafted by Edinburgh artisans. All of which we could imagine being built at some point in, say, the 15th century, back when King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne. But there’s a distinctly modern twist to this old-fashioned bridge, as it was designed using systems thinking. Which is to say, it was generated from an algorithm responding to three all-important guiding principles: suspension, repetition and alignment. By focusing on a design that optimizes both the bridge’s stability and ability to respond to changing foot-traffic conditions, the designers seek to optimize the performance of organic materials with smart design.
Humans aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit, either, as the Leith Walk Regeneration could prove a safe way for the city’s wildlife (and wildlife passing through) to cross the bustling Leith Walk.
The vision, however, extends beyond simply getting cyclists and pedestrians (and the odd critter) safely from Point A to Point B. Biomorphis sees the old train-tracks-turned-bike-path on either side of this bridge as surrounded by communal gardens. These gardens would give neighbors an opportunity to get together while encouraging biodiversity by creating a natural animal habitat (though how, exactly, the system would keep wildlife from helping themselves to garden goodies remains to be seen). The designers note that, like every project involving the introduction of vegetation into the city, the area would need to be prepared in terms of zoning and mapping for weeding, and plants would have to be selected for their suitability to the climate and reliance on rainwater, rather than irrigation.
Still, it’s a solid proposal for regenerating not just greenery and green transportation options in the city, but the region itself, North Edinburgh, which has been the focus of some long-delayed renewal plans. In the spirit of the Transition Towns movement — which seeks to create small-scale, local responses to the global challenges of climate change and fossil fuel dependence — the Edinburgh Council has been looking for a vision for Leith Walk, and Biomorphis’s proposal is currently backed by councilors who are actively promoting a new vision for the Scottish capital.