competition entry for the
dl&w RAIL corridor

buffalo, new york

The original rail corridor split the First Ward. Less people and activity have further reduced its fabric into isolated pockets. Nature has filled these voids but the area’s size remains unchanged. New ways of moving through and living with the growing natural landscape must be developed.


The ZIPPER concept transforms the rail corridor into a seam where active parts of the First Ward are reconnected. Like the Olmsted Parkways, it weaves nature with adjoining neighborhoods. Designed as both infrastructure and amenity, the ZIPPER is a corridor of movement that rebalances the adjoining neighborhoods relationship with nature via its parkway setting. The ZIPPER is a new backdrop for the area.


The ZIPPER follows the old track level. Its interlocking planks form a promenade connecting the First Ward with Downtown and Red Jacket Park. Clothing zippers’ 3 components - TAPE, TEETH, and PATHS - are reinterpreted as architectural elements. TAPE curates the corridor’s wild nature into a green band between neighborhood and upper path. TEETH are truck sized precast slabs surfaced with resin bound gravels. Set onto and over the landscape, their pattern interlocks as a continuous route through the First Ward. Smaller PATHS provide access to/from surrounding neighborhoods to the ZIPPER parkway above. Made of porous pavements with steel shoring retaining walls, the PATHS cut the rewilded landscape into smaller neighborhood tailored natural landscapes. The ZIPPER’s strategy is simple and flexible, so natural areas along the ZIPPER can be left in reserve or later accommodated into its logic.

The ZIPPER weaves existing elements to create FEATURES for neighborhood use, tourism, and leisure. Art FEATURES at the ZIPPER endpoints highlight local artists and attract interest from beyond the First Ward. Sport and garden FEATURES provide recreational spaces for neighborhood residents. Views of the Buffalo River and its silos emerge at multiple places, linking the ZIPPER to the area’s industrial legacy. Connections to Ohio & William St bike lanes will attract interest from beyond.

The ZIPPER is both paradigm and icon; a process to re-stitch the First Ward embodied as a common vision for its landscape.


 Competition Team

David Lage, Ryan Harvey (Resituated), Jean-Michel Reed (SEI Architecture), Jeannette Beck