Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the High Line

The High Line is a 1.5 mile linear park built on abandoned elevated rail lines in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Originally constructed in the thirties to lift dangerous freight trains off busy streets, the rail lines sat abandoned for over twenty years after the last train in the 1980’s.

In 1999, the non-profit group Friends of the High Line was formed. Ten years later, through a joint public and private funding effort, the first section of the park opened. Friends of the High Line is now responsible for raising private funds and overseeing the park’s maintenance and operation.

My first opportunity to visit the High Line came just before the second big section of the park opened in early June. My good friend Patrick Hazari is one of the architects working for Friends of the High Line and he gave us a personal tour of the project. Exploring this urban park was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to New York.

The design of the High Line draws directly from its history. In fact there are rail lines which have been incorporated into the planting beds and give shape to the hardscape. The planting design is inspired by the plant community that developed during the 25 years The High Line sat abandoned.

My favorite design element is how the planting beds effortlessly transition to hardscape; there are no hard edges. Every space is inviting and intimately proportioned to the pedestrian. This place is a must-see for every tourist let alone any plant, architecture, or urban-design enthusiast.

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