With the opening of the final section of New York’s High Line last month, the city can finally take stock on an urban transformation that took a decade and a half from idea to reality - and which in the five years since the first section opened has become one of the great phenomena of 21st century urban planning, inspiring copycat proposals in cities around the globe. In this article, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “The High Line’s Last Section Plays Up Its Rugged Past,” Anthony Paletta reviews the new final piece to the puzzle, and examines what this landmark project has meant for Manhattan’s West Side.
The promise of any urban railroad, however dark or congested its start, is the eventual release onto the open frontier, the prospect that those buried tracks could, in time, take you anywhere. For those of us whose only timetable is our walking pace, this is the experience of the newly opened, final phase of the High Line. The park, after snaking in its two initial stages through some 20 dense blocks of Manhattan, widens into a broad promenade that terminates in an epic vista of the Hudson. It’s a grand coda and a satisfying finish to one of the most ambitious park designs in recent memory.
Sunday marked the completion of the New York City High Line, a three-phased project that transformed the once disused elevated rail tracks on Manhattan’s West Side into one of the world’s most respected public parks. With the first section opening in 2009, architectural photographer Iwan Baan has been documenting the entire process. Now, for the first time we present to you a photographic journey through the completed High Line designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Take a look, after the break.
Fantastic news: the High Line at the Rail Yards – the third and northernmost section of the park – will be opening to the public on Sunday, September 21! Read the full announcement: http://bit.ly/RailYardsOpening Photo of the Interim Walkway, one of the new design features in the Rail Yards, by Kathleen Fitzgerald | OCD
This Sunday (September 21), the third and final section of the New York City High Line will open at the Rail Yards. You can expect to see familiar benches morphed into picnic tables and seesaws amongst a lush, diverse and seemingly unkept landscape that is reminiscent of the “forgotten” tracks. As Piet Oudolf - the Dutch garden designer who worked with James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio & Renfro - described, the $75 million northernmost section will be an “introduction to the wild” that responds directly to the public’s desire to “walk on the original tracks.” Stay tuned for more images from the opening.
The elevated railroad, which was designed to penetrate city blocks rather than parallel an avenue, saw its last delivery (of frozen turkeys) in 1980. By 1999, a “very strange landscape had formed, with a whole eco system around it,” says Diller. Advocacy for the site’s preservation began with two local residents, and culminated in its reclamation with the multidisciplinary collaboration of city officials and impassioned designers (namely James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and planting designer Piet Oudolf). “The High Line project couldn’t have happened without the right people, the right time and the right administration.”
Today, thirty-feet above the hardscape in the canopy of the New York City jungle, the High Line pauses for a meditative mile. “The high line, if it’s about anything, it’s about nothing, about doing nothing. You can walk and sit, but you can’t be productive,” comments Diller.
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 High Line’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.
UPDATE: We corrected some credits of this project. You can see the full list here.