StructureHub Review: High on the High LineShare
StructureHub Assessment: Sweet.
After ten years of advocacy, fundraising, and cheer-leading, the vision of Josh David and Robert Hammond, co-founders of Friends of the High Line, has been realized (that is, Phase I from Gansevoort to West 20th Street) in the form of a new sliver-like park floating above New York City’s concrete corridors and nestled in rusted steel. Derelict for decades, the elevated railway that once delivered freight to scores of warehouses had little going for it when a push for demolition gained speed. Luckily David and Hammond met and came upon their idea of new parkland that would add needed green space, but also preserve the somewhat gritty - or lived-in - feel of the Westside neighborhood the High Line once trundled through. Tearing it down would have eliminated a rusting hulk of shade, but doing so would also have created an (literally) unobstructed path to generic redevelopment projects having little feel for the community’s history and identity.
Almost as satisfying as the act of preservation itself is James Corner Field Operations (w/ Diller Scofidio & Renfro) competition-winning design. It does many things successfully in a highly constraining, awkward footprint. For instance, the High Line’s original purpose is scenically highlighted by preserving sections of rail bed in the grass, flowers, and weeds that sprout on every other abandoned line.
And despite the rail bed’s potentially-boring long, narrow dimension, lateral movement is palpable as one walks along due to a meandering, sort of zig-zagging path of concrete planks, the seeming randomness of which is appropriate for the slightly wild nature of the park.
And the views. I suspect the views - both of the Hudson and streetscapes below - will be entirely unique to New Yorkers familiar with the neighborhood and which may be enjoyed by relaxing on strategically-placed sleek, wooded benches. One of the more imaginative seating areas has a theatrical quality to it; near 17th Street, there are a couple tiers of seating that face black-painted steel structures that hold up the rail bed; the structures frame a view, through glass, of the street and all of its energy, below.
Among the many projects started because of the High Line’s redevelopment (and one such example of how preservation and green space can spur - not impede - urban revitalization), is the elegant and modern Standard Hotel - designed by the Polshek Partnership (read the recent New York Times review).
Spurs were preserved, adding more greenery as well as providing a reason to re-imagine the building’s in their past forms.