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The Streetcar con the 42nd Street_laureate

42nd Street is a microcosm of NYC reflecting its multiple facets and the dynamic, diverse and undulating flow of the city. The iconic street traverses multiple environments; a walk from river to river is a journey through NYC’s atmosphere, pace, scenery and culture.

Three urban concepts employed for an auto-free light rail boulevard on 42nd street:

  • A Large Linear Garden: Creation of an East-West linear garden lined with trees and an alternating grass and pavement track bed. The linear garden connects the Hudson avec East Rivers, drawing the spirit of the river into the vibrant urban heart of the city.
  • The Light Rail Grand Passage: Like a chameleon, the light rail channels the character of each section of its host neighborhood. The design captures and emphasizes the spirit of the surroundings and harnesses the diversity to create a unified continuum that draws the energy from each into a singular “Grand Passage”.
  • The Grid: the street layout is designed as a continuation of the concept of the NYC grid plan with its grid streets and grid pattern façades. With this inspiration, the light rail becomes the fifth façade of the city. The street plan incorporates alternating sequences of components, materials, lighting, furniture, fountains, plants, pavement shapes and details which are planned around this horizontal grid pattern.

The Design

The Spirit of the River (Milieus A) – The East and Hudson River waterfronts are designed as a vibrant green promenade to create a spirit of revival. As it enters 42nd street, the light rail draws that spirit into the city with its eateries, bars and coffee shops lined with open air tables. The bicycle lane, light rail and green pedestrian spaces are illuminated to ensure the vibrancy is alive day and night.

Urban integration of the tramway

Launched in 1994 by Catherine Trautmann instead of an automatic metro project, this surface public transport project was the starting point for a ‘French school’ of tram systems, marrying together a mobility project with an urban project.

It is a pretty rare phenomenon that the Workshop has participated in this project since its inception and 20 years later are still working on it! In the long term this work has profoundly transformed the city and its suburbs.

With this experience, one can discern three phases in the evolution of urban thinking about infrastructure:


The ‘heroic’ period (1994-2000)

Almost unanimous rejection of the project – considered retrograde, a disaster for traffic, the ruin of shopkeepers, etc. The beginning focused more on the legitimacy of the project than on how to build it; which gave us a lot of freedom.
Five years later, Catherine Trautmann was re-elected triumphantly, which was a strong signal to other hesitant cities…

The ‘Public spaces’ period (2000-2006)

With the construction of the 2nd and 3rd lines, the project took a ‘large scale urban planning’ dimension, characterised by very ambitious treatment of public spaces; the launch of the policy
of sustainable transport and large out-of-town park and rides.

The ‘Urbanistic’ period (2006-2014)

Major projects, restructuring and urban development are totally intertwined with extensions to the network. The ‘2 Rives’ (two banks) project, to create a new city on the banks of the Rhine, is the perfect illustration of this ongoing adventure.

The project moved gradually from a mobility in the city project to a city of mobilities.