The Blackrock Yard: Reconsidering Transitional Landscapes of Infrastructure
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The decline of industry has frequently lead to disinvestment into rail corridors in both the City of Buffalo and elsewhere throughout the United States and other First World countries. Rail companies and the industries they served historically used these rail corridors and immediately surrounding spaces, yet even after the decline of industry and disinvestment by rail companies, these spaces have continued to operate and function in ways unplanned for and largely uncontrolled by the official property owners and designers. After a large decline of rail use in these sites there were some initial overt and intentional and planned physical alterations, frequently including the physical demolition or removal of tracks, signals, switches, and storage units. Unplanned and undesigned alterations and occurrences, including natural (vegetation) regeneration, the proliferation of animal activity, and the increase in human activity, in the form of pedestrian, bicycle, and ATV travel throughout the site, can also be seen throughout many of these areas. Parts of the site are still active and facilitate active rail lines, but even where these “official” uses do not exist, there are well-maintained paths, and established and maintained trails, despite no grounds crew or maintenance staff. There are clearly defined spaces, despite there being no designer. These corridors are undefined but not abandoned spaces that are described by Ignasi de Solà-Morales Rubió as terrain vague, and operate separately from the defined and structured urban form around them. Despite their unofficial status and lack of widespread acknowledgment or recognition, these spaces continue to serve an important role to neighborhood residents, plant, and wildlife. The popularity and observed but largely undocumented busyness in these corridors stands is partly supported by new zoning codes and piecemeal planning in the City of Buffalo, but runs contrary to the residential development and exclusiveness uses occurring elsewhere in the city. Intentionally tentative and subtle interventions are proposed in and around these sites, with a primary focus on the Black Rock Yard in the northwest section of Buffalo. These interventions include access control and filtering structures and strategies coupled with branding and wayfinding, as well as observation and gathering structures located within the site, acting to further legitimize and offer a more defined sense of belonging to a diversity of site users. Further research will study the inherent equity of access these sites offer, as well more closely tied integration strategies connecting this site to the surrounding neighborhoods.