The New York High Line officially open

Photos © Iwan Baan

In May 2003, James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro competed against 720 teams from 36 countries to win the infrastructure conversion project of the New York City High Line.  More than half a decade later, the ’s transition to a public park is almost complete.  On June 8th, architects, elected officials, and advocates watched as Mayor Michael Bloomberg cut the ceremonial red ribbon, officially announcing the opening of the first of three sections.  The new park offers an alluring break from the chaotic city streets as users have an opportunity to experience an elevated space with uninterrupted views of the Hudson River and the city skyline.

More info about the park, including an incredible set of photos by architecture photographer Iwan Baan and a video by Brooklyn Foundry after the break.

UPDATE: We corrected some credits of this project. You can see the full list here.

YouTube Preview Image
Video by Brooklyn Foundry

The High Line, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks & Recreation, was the former West Side industrial railway.  It is a 1.45 mile-long elevated, steel structure built in the 1930s for freight trains; the last train ran on it in 1980.  Stretching across the west side of the city, it runs from Gansevoort Street, in the Meatpacking District, through the West Chelsea gallery neighborhood, and ends at 34th Street, next to the Jacob Javits Convention Center. In 2003, an open competition was held to convert the existing infrastructure into a public park.

The winning proposal by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro includes over a dozen access points to the elevated park.  Whichever entrance is activated, a key component will attract users to spend time and explore the complete park.  For instance, enter a little past 14th St. and enjoy the sundeck and water feature; enter close to 23rd St. to lounge on the open lawn and seating steps; or enter past 26th St. to enjoy the viewing area.

Inspired by the wild seeded landscape left after the line had been abandoned, the team created a paving system that encourages natural growth which creates a ‘pathless’ landscape.  ”Through a strategy of agri-tecture - part agriculture, part architecture – the High Line surface is digitized into discrete units of paving and planting which are assembled along the 1.5 miles into a variety of gradients from 100% paving to 100% soft, richly vegetated biotopes,” explained DS + Renfro.  This undefined and unobtrusive environment allows the public to meander and experience the park as they wish.

Before the new landscape could take form atop the High Line, every component of the structure was tested and treated to ensure its structural strength.  As each piece of rail was removed, it was marked and mapped so that later, it could be returned to its original location as an integrated planting piece.  Energy-efficient LED lights gently illuminate the park’s pathways and allow the eyes to adjust to the ambient light of the surrounding city sky.  Lights installed on the underside of the High Line illuminate the sidewalk below.  For the vast garden, soil was delivered and distributed to specific areas and more than one hundred different species of plants, selected from nurseries along the East Coast, were planted by a team of horticulturists to match the plans created by landscape architects James Corner Field Operations and planting designer .

Mr. Bloomberg called the High Line, “an extraordinary gift to our city’s future….It really does live up to its highest expectation.”  The promenade has initiated more than 30 new projects in the nearby neighborhood, including Renzo Piano’s new satellite for the Whitney Museum of American Art.   The new space will offer greening opportunities, alternative transportation options, and social benefits to meet changing needs in urban environments.  It is expected that the radical infrastructure conversion will attract thousands from around the world in its opening season.

© Iwan Baan

To read more visit The Highline official website.

Design Team (2004-2009)

The High Line design team is led by landscape architecture and urban design firm James Corner Field Operations.

James Corner Field Operations (Design Lead)
Principal-in-Charge: James Corner
Lead Project Designers: Lisa Tziona Switkin, Nahyun Hwang
Project Team: Sierra Bainbridge, Tom Jost, Danilo Martic, Tatiana von Preussen, Maura Rockcastle, Tom Ryan, Lara Shihab-Eldin, Heeyeun Yoon, Hong Zhou
View Web site

Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Partners: Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, Charles Renfro
Project Designer: Matthew Johnson
Project Team: Robert Condon, Tobias Hegemann, Gaspar Libedinsky, Jeremy Linzee, Miles Nelligan, Dan Sakai
View Web site


Cite: Cilento, Karen. "The New York High Line officially open" 09 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Well you could argue about that. I’d say paving materials and plant selection are a big part of the design. But it doesn’t matter, really. This is beautiful.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    What an amazing park for the city and the people.

    The contrast w/ the past into the present with the relation with nature it’s inspiring… The design is simply beautiful!!

    Congratulations to the neighbors that turn this idea into reality ;)

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I just was there yesterday. Truly amazing, a great contribution to Chelsea, NY and the whole architectural world. And I was surprised how many people were there already, of ALL ages and social groups, with kids, strollers, locals, tourists, construction workers, businessmen, teens, on their dates…
    Looking at the design proposal, I was interested in how the project is responding to the local context, eg adjacent buildings, rooftops, etc. Some conditions where the line penetrates through the existing structures are used to create the environment different from the outdoor parts of the line. However, I feel that in most cases neighboring structures are dramatically underestimated, even though initial design was responding to those conditions. I wonder whether this is a result of legal issues.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    RQH and others. Pull yer heads out. You may note that the form and structure are existing. You do us all us disservice trying to create some sort of tortured hierarchy between design of spaces that are plastic and design of places that are spatial. Grow up. BTW you’d label me a “form and structure” architect.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    thats bollocks RQH,

    the landscape architects did way more than paving and plants… thats like saying an architect just designs the facade of the building.

    what form and structure did the architects design by the way?

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    If you watch the video you’ll see that the architects both added to and removed from the existing structure. Landscape architects aren’t capable of doing that.

    Maybe you should research the different requirements for landscape architecture school vs. arch. school and passing the A.R.E. vs. the L.A.R.E. if you’re unsure as to why there’s hierarchy among landscape architects and real architects.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    RQH, its a shame that a joker like you feels they have to contribute to a serious blog like this.

    Grow up pal.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    i think landscape architects are just as capable as architects of using a structural engineer.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think RQH is going to have to include some oversize doors in his next design to accommodate his massive head during client-designer site visits.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    “real architects” haha!
    you do realise that landscape architecture is a totally different discipline to architecture dont you?… it’s not a step in becoming an architect or as it’s now known “unemployed architect”.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    What are you idiots debating? “who’s best” – Architects vs. landscape architects….? No wonder you are unemployed:)

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    But Scorfidio and Diller are awsome… The landscape guys in this case clearly are’nt.. Oh you mixed some plants, good for you little buddy….

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This is by the far the most innovative and influential BUILT project in the last few years. Congrats for the overall team of the project. Great contribution to New York City and also innovation on infrastructure, landscaping, and architecture.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

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  15. Thumb up Thumb down 0

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  16. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  17. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    And thats what i call an AMAZING architecture .P
    hope every city will have something like that

  18. Thumb up Thumb down 0

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