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Nine Mile Run

Location: Pittsburgh, USA

Artists: Bob Bingham, Tim Collins, Reiko Goto. Attorney: John Stephen


An interdisciplinary group of artists, scientists, engineers, historians, planners and designers have been working together on the Nine Mile Run Greenway Project since 1996 to address the challenges and opportunities in transforming a site used for urban, industrial waste into a sustainable environment. The project is directed by artists Bob Bingham, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, and Attorney John Stephen, who lead a team of assistants and consultants with a range of skills and disciplines. The work is a project of the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, an interdisciplinary centre in the College for Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.


Nine Mile Run is an historic stream valley which has suffered from flash flooding, erosion and waste water problems for a century. In 1928, it was bought by a slag disposal firm for the steel industry and was actively used until 1972. With the ongoing problems of domestic sewage leakage, flooding and leaching from the slagheap, the water and valley had become ecologically dead and the area was viewed as an eyesore of no value by residents in adjacent housing.

Ongoing Project

The project has three integrated strands:-

  • Art as both a process and a means to change the images and ideas which inform community values. The negative value accorded by a community can constrain the reclamation of post-industrial wastelands.
  • Ecological restoration as the method and philosophy which allows us to see how to change these places into sustainable ecosystems.
  • Community participation in design and decision-making about post-industrial public space.

Through its work, the project team has changed the perception of the city powers and of local people of the site from slag heap/waste land to an area with value, resources, opportunities and most of all, with potential to support a post-industrial ecology. In summer 2001, a massive engineering project started which is transforming the stream at Nine Mile Run, repairing and restoring bank erosion, creating and enhancing wetlands to moderate extreme flow and flooding and reducing leaching from the slag piles. Meanwhile the City Authority is tackling the overflows of untreated sewage into the stream.

Key Issues

  • Artists in a collaborative interdisciplinary team to tackle problems of:-
    • public and civic perception
    • community consultation and involvement
    • environmental sustainability
    • creative and aesthetic enquiry alongside the scientific/practical
  • A transferable model for use in reclamation of other urban brownfield sites.
  • The arts as a means of highlighting a symbolic change in balance between industry/human culture and nature.

© Copyright Joanna Morland 2001.