Before every self-respecting city copies New York City’s High Line as a strategy to revitalize their abandoned railway tracks, it’s worth the effort to take a look at this project by HeHe. The French urban design studio presents a fresh take on rediscovering derelict railroads by designing unconventional vehicles dedicated to open up the city’s railways in a rather funny way.
Most cities are full of abandoned railway tracks leading to places that are not accessible via other roads. This turns them into fascinating routes for committed urban explorers. With a series of artistic railroad vehicles, HeHe tries to open up this hidden infrastructure. Opposite to what the High Line park has achieved — becoming a public space and major attraction for the masses — this idea cherishes exclusivity. It opens up secret infrastructure one person at a time, and in a remarkable way. This element of secrecy and exclusiveness is often neglected in modern city-making, but it surely does intensify the experience of the happy few.
The designers came up with various types of vehicles to surf the former train, tram and metro tracks. One of them is the Métronome, a transparent three-person capsule that was launched in Paris in 2012. This wagon is the most serious chariot in their fleet, and seems to meet the needs of a family on a urban exploring trip. Other examples, like The Tapis Volant — a one person vehicle that was made for Istanbul’s tram network — and the Radeau de Sauvetage — which seems to be a cross-over between a sailboat and a pump trolley — are more conceptual and less useful. Back in 2007, the design studio also tested some vehicles on the actual High Line, which in those days was still an urban left-over only frequented by birds, bees and graffiti artists.