Retrofitting Infrastructure: Strategies for Freeway Reformation in Oakland

This project re-imagines the freeway’s contribution to urban space by demonstrating regional, environmental, and community strategies integral to the system’s reformation:

PROBLEM

In the 1940’s and 50’s a new system of mobility revolutionized how we think about cities. It was a system thought to relieve congestion and increase connectivity throughout metropolitan regions. In the Bay Area, Oakland emerged as the most impacted of the region’s centers during this time. Its city fabric went through a painful period of freeway superimposition. In the process, thousands of linear feet of street frontage were marginalized or completely erased, residents were displaced or relocated, and the city itself was segregated into isolated neighborhoods. Communities along the corridor are among the poorest in Oakland and primarily composed of minority and immigrant populations. Perhaps most troubling is that residents of these communities are much more likely to develop adverse heath effects such as cancer and childhood asthma, the source of which has been linked to poor air quality. For 60 years Oakland Residents have lived with these freeways unchanged. The need to rethink their form is long overdue.

SOLUTION

A series of strategies are recommended re-imagining the freeway’s contribution to urban space. Using regional, environmental, and community strategies such as reclaiming wasted space, capturing harmful pollutants, screening the freeways effects from the public, de-concentrating toxic corridors, reconnecting severed communities, and activating long abandoned land the system can be reformed.  This toolkit provides cities and their citizens with an urban blueprint for a physically and socially healthier future. In the case of Oakland, the central strategy suggests removing redundant ramps along the freeway system and utilizing the freed land for the city’s benefit. Displaced local traffic is absorbed into Oakland’s street grid while less congestion and pollution are generated from the freeway. Environmentally, the proposal suggests adding a new component to the freeway’s structure that will mitigate the many harmful effects it poses to the surrounding environment. A vegetated and carbon capturing structure becomes the new armature for the freeway as it passes through Oakland. Because of the corridor’s single (auto oriented) use, connecting across either side of the freeway calls for mixing uses (and modes) along the freed space. The main use will be a continuous multi-modal greenway that connects each affected neighborhood to Oakland’s Lake Merritt Park and Estuary. With the newly emphasized connections and effective mitigation strategies in place, new communities can be imagined on the rest of the reclaimed land. Programs for catalyst sites are proposed at urbanistically significant connection points across the freeway system.  All interventions must keep in mind the unique and varied nature of Oakland culture for there to be true freeway reformation.

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O Z I I O is a Boston based design collaborative re-awakening the potential of design in everyday life. We believe that design is inspired by the people and places that make the built environment a unique and rich database of ideas. Our mission is to transform those ideas into informative, creative, and provocative designs that are considered integral pieces of the urban landscape.

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Justin Viglianti
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Andres Bernal
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Alfredo Rico-Dimas
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