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Thread: The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

  1. #61


    They are all so abstract in the way they are presented I cant get a feel for them. But I would go with the most wacked out one. Which ever that may be.

  2. #62
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    High Line forum packed tighter than a subway car

    Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

    By Albert Amateau

    Over 500 people attended a forum on the future of the High Line elevated railroad at the Center for Architecture on LaGuardia Pl. last week.

    If the overflow crowd at the Center for Architecture’s forum on the High Line last week is any indication, future visitors to the elevated park between the Gansevoort Market and the Javits Convention Center will barely fit on the 30-ft. width of the old rail viaduct.

    “Since we opened last fall, this is the largest crowd we’ve had here,” said Rick Bell, executive director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, referring to the 500 people who crammed into the Center at 536 LaGuardia Pl. for the July 15 presentation on the future of the High Line. Others who tried to get in could not, and were left standing outside on the sidewalk.

    The focus of all that attention was the four teams that submitted scenarios to convert the disused 1.3-mile railroad viaduct into an elevated park that traverses Chelsea along the west side of 10th Ave. — where more than 200 art galleries occupy old warehouse space — and the Meat Market in Greenwich Village.

    Team leaders used words like “magical,” “unruly” and “wild,” to describe aspects of the elevated railroad that they intend to honor and enhance but inevitably change by transforming it into a public park. And to one degree or another, all four teams are committed to providing public access to the High Line as soon as possible, even if that access is only temporary at first.

    Steven Holl, an architect and leader of one of the teams whose office overlooks the High Line at 31st St., recalled seeing a blue butterfly on the viaduct during a recent visit. Looking ahead to 2050 to “a suspended valley” among the tall buildings of the future, he said, “As long as we can see a butterfly, we will have achieved that balance we’re seeking.”

    Built by the now-defunct New York Central Railroad 70 years ago to raise street-level freight trains from the surface of 10th Ave. — where they were an impediment to traffic and a menace to pedestrians — to tracks 20 ft. overhead, the High Line has been unused for 20 years and is overgrown by the seeds of windblown grasses, weeds and trees.

    Friends of the High Line, organized by Chelsea residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond in 1999, began working for what was then considered the romantic folly of preserving the line that had originally served West Side factories and warehouses. But the Bloomberg administration adopted the idea and has made a public promenade on the High Line the central element in the proposed redevelopment of West Chelsea, the planned construction of the controversial New York Sports and Convention Center and the redevelopment of the Hudson Yards.

    “We begin with the strange, otherworldliness of the High Line and the emergent growth over time as new space is built. But as soon as it becomes a public space, it can no longer be like this,” said James Corner, landscape designer and leader of the Field Operations team.

    The Field Operations vision has an interaction of hard and soft surfaces, including dips into pools in some places with the path flying above the track bed in areas that are to remain untrodden.

    Elizabeth Diller, an architect member of the Field Operations team, suggested sections for events that could accommodate as many as 200 people. At places where the High Line goes through buildings, like the Chelsea Market, the former National Biscuit Company building between 15th and 16th Sts., there could be commercial uses to generate income to maintain the High Line.

    “The extraordinary thing about this project is its improbability and the constant transformation of space that will never be completed,” Corner said.

    Holl also paid tribute to the open-ended transformation of the High Line and the space beneath. “The High Line has been evolving for 70 years and we hope to make it a part of the city — not headed to a fixed end,” he said.

    The structure was built to handle freight trains and is four times stronger than it must be for a pedestrian promenade, Holl said. He envisioned the structure without its concrete skin and some steel removed to create a lattice, allowing light to penetrate to the street below. Colored lighting provided by LEDs on the underside of the viaduct would promote attendance at the art galleries that have come to dominate the West Chelsea district.

    Michael Van Valkenburgh, landscape designer and leader of the TerraGRAM team, invoked the name of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park in the 19th century.

    “We’re bringing the High Line into the 21st century, taking its glaring limitations and making it the Central Park of this century,” Van Valkenburgh said. The High Line will be a transition between “the dog and the wolf,” he said — the dog being the built environment underneath and around the viaduct and the wolf being the wild growth on top.

    Van Valkenburgh’s vision includes zoned gardens with the neighbors of different stretches taking part in the creation and maintenance of the High Line flora. He also suggested stripping some of the viaduct to let people see the fundamental structure of New York City. “In time, we hope to have stairs at every intersection emerging into a miniature forest of trees,” Van Valkenburgh said, adding, “But it’s important to keep the rails visible at all times. We can’t lose the idea of a real railroad.”

    Zaha Hadid, winner of the 2004 Pritzker Prize for architecture and the first woman so honored, is the leader of another team that sees the High Line as “a ribbon which can expand or shrink as needed.” The Hadid team, which includes The Kitchen, a West Chelsea arts venue, as cultural advisor, sees art installations and programs as an important element of the High Line. “We hope to engage the streets as part of the effect of the High Line,” Hadid added.

    All the teams have consultants for dealing with any toxic residue of nearly 50 years of rail use. “CSX [the company that inherited the High Line from Conrail, which took it over when New York Central collapsed] will be very nervous if we keep talking about toxicity, but in fact, there’s very little there,” said Van Valkenburgh.

    The federal Surface Transportation Board must approve the application by the city and the Friends of the High Line to include the viaduct in the federal rail-banking system’s Rails-to-Trails program. That approval is likely since opposition by Chelsea Property Owners, whose property is under the viaduct, has evaporated after the city’s promise to allow them to sell their development rights to developers of properties elsewhere in a proposed West Chelsea special district.

    During the past 30 years, residential developers of property under the High Line between the St. John’s Building — a former rail terminal for the High Line — north of Canal St. and Gansevoort St. were able to convince the federal government to approve demolition of the southern stretch of the viaduct.

    Friends of the High Line and the city hope to select a development team from among the four submissions by September. The winning team will develop a master plan in a process that will include frequent public meetings, and construction is to being early in 2006.

    “We don’t know what the cost might be until we have a master plan, but we’re estimating it to be between $65 million and $100 million,” Hammond said. The city has so far committed $16 million and Congressmember Jerrold Nadler has secured $5 million in federal funds. “We hope Senators Schumer and Clinton will secure more federal funds and we hope to raise private funds,” Hammond said, adding, “We think we’ll have enough money to start construction.”

    Senator Clinton is a strong supporter of the project.

    “The High Line project represents the extraordinary things that can be accomplished when a community organizes and decides it wants to move an idea forward,” Clinton recently said in a statement to The Villager. “That’s why I’ve been an ardent supporter of this project, because I believe it will help create a unique and scenic landmark on Manhattan’s West Side that will be treasured for generations.”

    The Villager, Volume 74, Number 12 | July 21 - 27, 2004

  3. #63

  4. #64


    The feild production's one looks ok, with the greenery, but what is that? A beach with water?

    And I didnt care for the last one period, not appealing to me at all.

  5. #65
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
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    Yeah I defenetly like Number 1. It looks like more fun and it will be so different that any other park in the city. I love the entrance to the park. But they can do without the beach it is totally weird. And come'on bike paths! Where are the bike paths in all of the designs?

    Number 1 looks like it will cost the most. Saying that I think that the less costly will be number 4 and I am afraid that one will be vote it. If at least they have bike paths I will be ok.

  6. #66


    Remaking Tracks

    Four plans would transform the High Line, an overgrown vestige of the city's industrial past, into a vibrant swath of its future


    July 29, 2004

    A strip of forgotten wilderness runs down the West Side of Manhattan like a weedy seam. The High Line, an abandoned elevated railway that snakes its way from West 34th Street to the Gansevoort Meat Market, is a rusting relic of the industrial age. Built in the 1930s to carry freight in and out Manhattan's manufacturing district, it was eventually condemned to obsolescence by the combined forces of gentrification and trucking.

    It has become a pastoral avenue that nobody sees. In the 24 years since the last load of frozen turkeys was delivered by train to a Greenwich Village warehouse, weeds and wildflowers have sprung from its gravel beds, obscuring the tracks and suggesting a possible future as a verdant walkway above the streets. Some local businesses see it as an obsolete eyesore, shutting light out from the sidewalks and depressing property values. But the Bloomberg administration and a small army of celebrities have sided with Friends of the High Line, an organization that wants to transform the dilapidated structure into a destination.

    Last year, that nonprofit group solicited ideas about how to accomplish that. It received 720 suggestions, from the minimal (leave the weeds) to the preposterously extravagant (a mile-and-a-half-long swimming pool). Now the organization is conducting a more realistic competition for a master plan and has narrowed the field to four teams of architects.

    The romance of the project has attracted major talent. Zaha Hadid, this year's Pritzker Prize winner, leads one team. Another includes Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, which has been hired to refurbish Lincoln Center. A third is captained by the esteemed architect Steven Holl and the fourth, called Terragram, is led by the landscape architect and Harvard University professor Michael Van Valkenburgh.

    So far the process has produced only general design approaches. An exhibit of the four proposals is on view at the Center for Architecture until Aug. 14. Whichever team gets the job in the fall will then plunge into a new round of studies, debates and brainstorming sessions, emerging with a full-fledged master plan next year.

    In the meantime, New Yorkers can look forward to a new kind of urban park, a distinctly local equivalent to the European passeggiata. The pedestrian boulevard will thread its placid way through a neighborhood's shuddering changes. In the past 20 years, the westernmost slice of Chelsea, between 10th Avenue and the Hudson River, has metamorphosed from a gritty industrial district to an area sprinkled with art galleries and chichi restaurants.

    The Bloomberg administration is trying to shape the next phase of that transformation by applying a nudge here and a brake there. Last fall, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Gansevoort Meat Market area as a historic district, protecting its cobbled streets and its warehouses, with their corrugated-metal awnings, from demolition.

    At the same time, the city planning commission unveiled a proposed rezoning of West Chelsea, which would allow a flock of new apartment buildings. Meanwhile, the city is negotiating the tension between change and preservation by cheering on the renovation of the High Line.

    Its future as a park is far from a sure thing. Money must be raised - somewhere between $60 million and $100 million - and the federal government must be persuaded to fold the project into the rails-to-trails program through which disused railroad tracks can be converted into parks and bicycle paths until they are needed as train routes again (in most cases, never).

    Each of the four finalist proposals for the High Line would create an immeasurable improvement in the life of Manhattan. The tragic mistake would be to demolish the High Line or let it continue to decay.

    Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro

    Diller, Scofidio + Renfro teamed up with James Corner and his landscape firm, Field Operations, to create the most provocative and vivid of the four proposals: an undulating platform that would preserve some of the railway's current sense of wilderness.

    For now, the tracks run through an uncultivated grassland. The proposal would pave the structure with long concrete planks, sometimes tightly fitted, sometimes separated by gaps overflowing with vegetation. Meadow would shade into strips of brush and woodland thicket, fading, perhaps, into patches of artificial marsh.

    Like a combination of boardwalk and dune, concrete ramps would arc above the trees, providing lofty views, or swoop down between the steel girders, cocooning pedestrians in greenery and allowing them to forget for a moment the city all around. The up-and-down intentionally slows the typical New York City quick-march to a contemplative stroll. Those in a hurry need only click down the stairs to the churning sidewalks.

    In all the proposals, the High Line becomes a place of spectacle, too. This team's more fanciful renderings envision high-flying acrobatic demonstrations and a stretch of elevated beach, complete with swimming hole. But Field Operations also foresees havens for more easily conceivable activities: outdoor movies, people-watching and light shows illuminating the line's several passageways through existing buildings.

    At the southern end, sculpted nature gives way to raw industrial artifact. Naked steel beams extend over a long, grand staircase by the Gansevoort Meat Market, where a glass wall turns butchering into a spectator sport. Perched above it all is a cantilevered glass gallery like the top of a "T," a transparent box whose principal purpose is to let people see and be seen.

    Zaha Hadid

    The core challenge of the High Line will be to make attractive the idea of lifting street life into the air. Hadid, the celebrated Iraqi-born architect based in London, draws pedestrians through vertical space like salmon upriver, in an instinctual flow of desire. In her Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, for instance, she merges floor, wall and walkway to give the museum the feeling of a continuous, ribboning structure.

    Her proposal for a High Line master plan has some similarities with that of Field Operations: zones of vegetation that bleed into each other without formal borders, and a surface that rolls above and below the horizontal plane defined by the railway girders.

    But Hadid envisions a more liquid structure, an architectural stream fed by the tributaries of building, park and street. At 18th Street, people would enter her version of the High Line by ambling up a looping, meadowed, handicapped-accessible ramp that doubles as the roof of a tubular building. The hurried and able-bodied could climb a standard set of stairs, but the gestural drama of the landscape emphasizes the ramp.

    In the end, Hadid's team may leave blanks at various access points for other architects to design. But in the conceptual renderings, which are a good deal more specific and legible than Hadid's usual elegant abstractions, the High Line has acquired a seamless, molded-concrete curviness reminiscent of a 1960s flight terminal.

    Markus Donchantschi, one of Hadid's collaborators, suggested that benches might emerge out of a ramp, become articulated (identifiably benchlike) for a few yards, and then disappear again back into a floor or wall. At the Gansevoort Market, the walkway would slope gently up and end on a rooftop observation deck, giving the building below the cozy, space-age look of the Teletubbies' burrow.

    Steven Holl

    The architect Steven Holl, who lives in Greenwich Village near the southern end of the High Line and works near the other end, has been floating plans to salvage it for more than 20 years. His priority now is to get at least a segment of it open to the public soon, so that redeveloping the rest will seem irresistible. Eventually, he hopes to make the High Line part of a green loop connected to the new Hudson River Park by a series of pedestrian bridges that would soar above the fierce traffic of West Street.

    Holl also hopes to move the West 26th Street flower market down to the meat market, so the smell of blooms rather than blood would fill the wide intersection at Gansevoort Street. A spiraling ramp full of flower stalls would rise above the warehouse building, like a scented lookout turret.

    The actual lookouts - the security officers monitoring the High Line's full length - would be headquartered in a long glass gallery jacked overhead at 18th Street: a "translucent membrane bridge," Holl calls it.

    Holl has paid special attention to the rail line's underside, partnering with the artist Solange Fabião to create a 1.5-mile lighting display that could be used for artwork or advertising.


    Of all the finalists, it is the Terragram team, led by the landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, that draws the greatest inspiration from the way the High Line looks today: a strip of urban wilderness. In this plan, still painted in broad philosophical brushstrokes rather than architectural details, a narrow concrete walkway meanders past patches of unkempt-looking greenery or a thick forest of sunflowers. The High Line has a particular ravaged beauty, heightened by neglect: Above, according to the team statement, is a "resilient volunteer wildscape," below, the "sublime industrial underbelly of the rail corridor itself."

    All the architects evince an almost sensual fondness for the High Line's bare steel, the rare frank manifestation of a skeleton that, in tall buildings, is usually hidden. In projects of adaptive reuse such as this one, there is always a balance to be struck between preserving an architectural memory and giving it new life; Terragram's plan celebrates messy history rather than a high-gloss future.

    That's the crux of the competition. Assuming that in the long run the Friends of the High Line are successful in their quest, the final selection of a master planner will determine just how raw and brutal an old industrial muscle is permitted to remain or how smooth and civilized it will become as it runs through the heart of an ever-more-chic Chelsea.

    Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

  7. #67


    August 12, 2004

    Gardens in the Air Where the Rail Once Ran


    A rendering of the proposed design for the High Line looking south from 22nd Street and 10th Avenue.

    A rendering of the proposed design for the High Line shows the view at 23rd Street and 10th Avenue.

    A team of New York-based architects led by Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro has been selected to design a master plan that would transform an abandoned section of elevated freight track into a public park that would weave its way north from the meatpacking district to Hell's Kitchen, two stories above the city.

    The city and Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit group that has been overseeing the development of the High Line elevated track, have yet to officially announce the selection, which was made last week. City officials and members of the architectural team still have to work out the details of a design contract that could eventually encompass a series of public gardens, a swimming pool, an outdoor theater and food halls, a project running for more than 20 city blocks from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street.

    Nonetheless, the selection marks a critical step in one of the most compelling urban planning initiatives in the city's recent history. The preliminary design succeeds in preserving the High Line's tough industrial character without sentimentalizing it. Instead, it creates a seamless blend of new and old, one rooted in the themes of decay and renewal that have long captivated the imagination of urban thinkers.

    Perhaps more important, the design confirms that even in a real estate climate dominated by big development teams and celebrity architects, thoughtful, creative planning ideas - initiated at the grass-roots level - can lead to startlingly original results. As the process continues, the issue will be whether the project's advocates can maintain such standards in the face of increasing commercial pressures.

    Architects have fantasized about the High Line since at least the early 1980's, when Steven Holl first completed a theoretical proposal to build a "bridge of houses" that straddled the elevated tracks. Property owners considered the line an urban blight, and only a few years ago they were lobbying for its demolition. Friends of the High Line defeated that effort, in part by convincing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and city planning officials that a revamped High Line could act as a spur to urban renewal. Eventually, the site was conceived as a public promenade, one that could be used to bind together the communities that lie beneath it.

    The city planning office, meanwhile, devised a plan that would allow property owners below the High Line to transfer their development rights to other sites within the district. Friends of the High Line has also raised $3.5 million in private money for the project. The city has committed another $15.75 million over the next four years.

    The strength of the Field Operations design is its ability to reflect a sense of communal mission without wiping away the site's historical character. These competing interests are balanced with exquisite delicacy.

    The architects begin by creating a system of concrete planks that taper slightly at either end. The planks will be laid out along the High Line's deck in parallel bands, creating a pedestrian walkway that meanders back and forth as it traces the path of the elevated tracks, occasionally fading away to make room for a series of colorful gardens.

    The gardens embody competing forces - some wild, others carefully cultivated. At various points along the deck, for example, the existing landscape of meadow grass, wildflowers, weeds and gravel will be preserved. At other points, that landscape will be replaced by an explosion of vividly colored fields and birch trees.

    The idea is to create a virtually seamless flow between past and future realities, a blend of urban grit and cosmopolitan sophistication. But it is also to slow the process of change, to focus the eye on the colliding forces - both natural and man-made - that give cities their particular beauty. That vision has a more subversive, social dimension: to offer a more measured alternative to the often brutal pace of gentrification.

    There are few better vantage points for observing the city's evolution than the High Line. From the gardens, for example, various views would open up to the surrounding cityscape. Framed by the surrounding buildings, they would offer visual relief from the isolated world above. At the same time, they would set up a rhythm as one strolls along the concrete deck, between spectacular urban vistas and the more contemplative world of the gardens.

    The tranquility of that experience would be interrupted by a series of carefully calibrated public events. In some places, for example, the concrete path is to dip below the level of the gardens, allowing pedestrians to observe street life below. Above 23rd Street, another section of the deck would peel up to create an informal outdoor amphitheater. Just beyond the stage, a section of the deck would be cut away, creating a stunning view of cars streaming by below. The opening is to be framed by a perfectly manicured lawn - a nod, perhaps, to the more conventionally suburban vision of park planning that extends a few blocks away along the Hudson River.

    Further to the north, a public swimming pool would be embedded into the deck's concrete surface. Like much of the design, the pool is only a sketch - the beginning of an idea - but it is an intriguing one nonetheless. A large concrete panel lifts up at one end of the pool to support a faux urban beach. Concrete piers extend out into the water like giant fingers.

    The power of such gestures lies in their simplicity. As architectural objects, they are relatively mundane. Their meaning arises from their relationship to the immediate context.

    The design's greatest weakness, in fact, occurs when the architecture gets more elaborate. Currently, the High Line ends abruptly at Gansevoort Street, its steel beams and concrete deck protruding above the roof of a warehouse like a severed limb. This would eventually become one of the project's main gateways. The architects have proposed a grand stair that leads up to the gardens, flanked by a gallery space and rooftop market. Just above the market, the large, glass-enclosed form of a bar would jut out over the stair.

    The idea is to tap into the meatpacking district's vibrant social life in order to energize the High Line's public gardens. But the architecture is bland. And the impulse is at odds with the lightness of touch that characterizes the rest of the design. Worse, it comes perilously close to conventional development formulas: a high-end mall for downtown sophisticates. What one longs for here is a more gentle entry, one that would allow the public to slip into the gardens virtually unnoticed.

    Such issues can easily be corrected as the design process unfolds. But they point to what may ultimately be the greatest threat to the project's success: regulating access to the site. The High Line has already begun to spark the interest of developers, who understand its potential as an agent for raising real estate values. The developer Marshall Rose is working with Frank Gehry on a proposal for a mixed-use development that would straddle the High Line near 18th Street. The hotelier André Balazs, meanwhile, is negotiating to purchase a site that adjoins the High Line just below 13th Street, a lot that was once slated for a project by the celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel.

    In an effort to take advantage of that interest, city planners have envisioned a series of incentives that would reward developers who include public access to the High Line in their plans. The scheme would also allow developers to connect commercial ventures directly to the gardens, which could radically alter the nature of the project. At the same time, allowing those who own properties below the High Line to relocate creates the possibility of freeing portions of the High Line from the surrounding density.

    In their competition entry, the Field Operations architects' only link to outside development is depicted as a drawbridge. They are right to be ambivalent. As the High Line project continues to develop, the issue of access will have to be handled with particular care. If not, the High Line could one day become nothing more than Manhattan's belated answer to the historic theme park - a grotesque urban mall on stilts.

    But this is not the time for skepticism. So far, both Friends of the High Line and the City Planning Department have proved remarkably adept at negotiatingpolitical hurdles. They have refused to pander to commercial interests. Nor have they ignored them. In selecting the design, they continue to show a genuine sensitivity to the High Line's value to the public realm. After the flawed, often cynical planning efforts that have marked development at ground zero, the thoughtful development of the High Line should be welcomed by New Yorkers who believe decent planning and imaginative architecture have a role in the city's future.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  8. #68


    The High Line — a dramatic park?

    Staff Writer

    August 13, 2004

    If the budgets and bureaucrats fall into place, the architectural firm Diller, Scofidio + Renfro will transform the High Line, an abandoned railway running above the streets of West Chelsea, into a dramatic strip of parkland.

    Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit organization leading the effort to recycle that industrial artifact, chose the firm from four finalists including the Pritzker Prize-winner Zaha Hadid, sentimental favorite Steven Holl (who has been agitating for the project for more than 20 years), and a team led by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh.

    Diller, Scofidio + Renfro's plan offers an irresistible mix of the pastoral and the theatrical. All the proposals dealt with the untamed grassland on the abandoned railway bed, but the winner envisioned an undulating landscape that climbs small hills and dips between the girders.

    The choice cements the recently exalted reputation of a firm that once inhabited the conceptual edge of the architectural world, working as much with insubstantial materials such as light and electronics as with concrete and steel. The firm has recently scooped up commissions to reshape Lincoln Center and the cultural district around the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

    Even half a dozen years ago, it seemed implausible that the firm would become such a major player in reshaping the cultural life of an architecturally cautious city. This was, after all, the team that in 2002 produced the Blur Building, a temporary walk-in cloud hovering above a Swiss lake. Among the projects the firm has in the pipeline is the Eyebeam Museum of Technology in Chelsea, where visitors will wander along a ribboning ramp in a wireless high-tech haze and floors will swoop up into walls as they do in a skateboarding park.

    The firm's High Line design combines the provocative with the practical. An elevated outdoor swimming hole includes a patch of beach on a sloping plinth. A vast outdoor movie screen would be visible from the street — and from bedrooms three blocks away. But the core of the proposal, which is still in the early phase, involves blurring the lines between pavement and wilderness, with plants that burst from between narrow concrete planks. Rather than the neatly divided zones of traditional parks, the scheme aims for a stylish bit of planned dishevelment.

    There are still major hurdles. The project could cost up to $100 million, which has not yet been raised, and while the city backs the plan, the federal government and CSX, the company that owns the High Line, still need to sign off on it.

    Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.

  9. #69


    Turning The High Line Elevated Railroad Into An Unconventional Park

    by Ann Schwartz
    November 11, 2004

    In one of his last acts in office, Mayor Rudy Giuliani approved the demolition of the High Line, an abandoned elevated freight railroad running through Chelsea and the West Village. The owners of property shadowed by the hulking structure wanted it torn down. The idea of reinventing the tracks as a public open space, proposed by a grassroots group called Friends of the High Line, was a fantasy that few people gave any chance of success.

    Fast forward three years. This October, the city announced the selection of a design team to make the track a public promenade, as well as the dedication of $43 million to the project, which has an estimated total cost of between $60 and $100 million. The State of New York and CSX Transportation, the railroad that owns the line, joined the city in petitioning the federal Surface Transportation Board to rail-bank the line, which would transfer the easement to the city and allow its use as public space. If all goes as planned, construction will begin next fall. Against all odds, a crazy and impractical-seeming idea is rapidly becoming a reality.

    The High Line was built in the 1930s to serve the refrigerated meat and dairy warehouses of the West Side, taking dangerous freight traffic off Tenth Avenue. Part of the line was torn down in the 1960s, and the remaining segment, from Gansevoort to 34th Street, was taken out of service in 1980. It was mostly forgotten, except by architects, preservationists and adjacent property owners.

    The few people who discovered the rusting track, overtaken by weeds and wildflowers, were captivated by its solitude and mystery. Some likened it to a magic carpet ride -- a tapestry that changed with the seasons, floating two stories high through industrial precincts, just above the streets but open to the sky and river and cityscape.

    In 1999, West Side residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond founded Friends of the High Line to save the line and take advantage of a rare opportunity to create open space in an area that desperately needed it. To their surprise, they quickly gained the support of local residents, civic organizations, and businesspeople, including the owners of art galleries in West Chelsea. "The power behind the project was that it was a dream, a dream-like vision, we were making a reality," recalled David. "It seemed like something wonderful and impossible. And as soon as people got the sense that this wonderful, seemingly impossible thing was possible, it created incredible excitement."

    Elected officials started coming on board, including City Councilmember Christine Quinn, who represents the area, and Council Speaker Gifford Miller. A turning point came with the election of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who quickly reversed the city’s course and began the rail-banking process early in his term.

    Mayor Bloomberg and Department of City Planning Director Amanda Burden envision the line tying together three areas that are the focus of city revitalization efforts: the Gansevoort Historic District, West Chelsea, and the far West Side between the 30s and 42nd Street, including the site of the controversial proposed stadium complex. Mayor Bloomberg called the High Line "a beautiful new amenity that will serve as the spine of vibrant new neighborhoods on Manhattan’s Far West Side and create new economic benefits in the years to come."

    A Completely Different Kind Of Park

    In making their case to preserve the tracks, Friends of the High Line frequently cited the example of the Promenade Plantée, a landscaped walkway on a rail viaduct crossing the 12th Arrondissement in Paris. Reflecting the classic beauty of the city it overlooks, the promenade is a linear formal garden, a path bordered and interrupted by neatly edged beds of flowers, shrubs, and trees. The first park ever built on an elevated line, it has been a huge success, attracting many more visitors than expected and spurring the construction of apartment and commercial buildings in the surrounding area.

    Although the concept of the High Line as a landscaped pedestrian walkway was inspired by its French predecessor, the design is shaping up to be something different altogether — unlike any other park and unique to New York.

    "People are looking for a design that refers to the special qualities that are up there now," said David. The goal is to capture the disused track’s wildness, its grittiness, its evocation of the city’s industrial past, and especially its sense of serenity. Yet the park will need to accommodate large numbers of people, a variety of public uses, and the commercial activities that will inevitably arise in the adjacent spaces.

    After narrowing down 70 proposals to four finalists, a selection committee representing five city agencies and Friends of the High named a design team led by the landscape architecture firm Field Operations and architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro to create the master plan.

    The team’s provocative preliminary concept looks more like a work of modern sculpture than a traditional park. It is based on parallel concrete planks that fade in and out of a landscape ranging from gravel and grasses to a more cultivated type of garden. In some sections, the volunteer vegetation and rusting metal of the existing line would remain intact. The architects envision the line as a slow, meandering path that at times dips below or curves above the tracks, with places for both quiet reflection and public activities and events.

    In October, more than a hundred people came to a community input forum to view a presentation of the preliminary concept and offer their ideas, concerns, and hopes.

    Most of those attending agreed that the park should be a "slow lane," a place to meander, meditate, and enjoy the views. They noted that there is already a well-used route for bicyclists and skaters just a few blocks away at the Hudson River Park. Other community concerns were safety, enough seating, connections to the river, and guarding against the encroachment of commercial activities. The design team will return to the community with an update on December 2, at the Chelsea Recreation Center.

    Open Space As A Catalyst For Change

    Unlike the typical development approach that throws in a park or two as a sweetener to make large new construction projects more palatable to the public, the effort to reuse the High Line starts with the premise that open space can be at the heart of neighborhood revitalization.

    And in contrast to the city’s top-down plan to build a stadium and redevelop the area just to the north, which has generated tremendous neighborhood opposition, the High Line project is a model of local planning. It began at the grassroots and included the input of local residents and businesses as it evolved. According to Joshua David, there has been a remarkable and productive collaboration among Friends of the High Line and numerous city agencies, including parks, city planning, transportation, and economic development.

    The Department of City Planning has put together a proposal that weaves the High Line into a larger plan for rezoning West Chelsea. The plan aims to encourage the construction of more housing in the area, yet retain the area’s manufacturing and protect the thriving art gallery district that has emerged between 10th and 11th Avenues.

    To keep light and air around the High Line, the plan would restrict the heights of adjacent buildings, while allowing their owners to sell development rights that could be used in other parts of the district. It also offers incentives for providing access to the line. The public review process for the zoning change is expected to begin in December.

    Developers are starting to take interest in the area, as planners had hoped. But along with new development comes the risk of increased commercialization. The challenge going ahead is to make the High Line a true public space – not just a mall in the sky – that captures the excitement of the original vision.

    Anne Schwartz is a freelance writer specializing in environmental issues. Previously, she was the editor of the Audubon Activist, a news journal for environmental action published by the National Audubon Society, and an editor at The New York Botanical Garden.


    This website is brought to you by Citizens Union Foundation. It was made possible by a grant from the Charles Revson Foundation, and receives support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the New York Times Foundation, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Altman Foundation, and viewers like you. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution.

    Gotham Gazette -

    Dept of City Planning West Chelsea Zoning Proposal

  10. #70

  11. #71

    The High Line
    April 19–July 18

    This exhibition features Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's winning entry for the redesign of the High Line, a defunct, elevated railway bed that runs along Manhattan's far West Side. The design was inspired by what the architects deem the "High Line's melancholic, unruly beauty, in which nature has reclaimed a once vital piece of urban infrastructure." Comprising a series of gardens in the form of pits, plains, bridges, mounds, ramps, and flyovers situated along the twenty-two-block expanse, the project aims to create and preserve experiences of slowness, otherworldliness, and distraction. The installation includes models and digital renderings of the most current phase of design, along with photographs by Joel Sternfeld that capture the railway bed's present condition.

  12. #72
    Moderator NYatKNIGHT's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    Designers Detail an Urban Oasis 30 Feet Up


    April 19, 2005

    A computer-generated image of a proposed entrance to the High Line park. Designs go on display tomorrow at the Museum of Modern Art.

    he mile-and-a-half path of concrete planks will weave among plants and wildflowers like a curvilinear boardwalk meandering through a floating garden. Some entrances will emphasize a gradual ascent from the grit and congestion of the city's streets to an oasis of pastoral calm. The 22-block stretch is to include the unexpected: an adjustable chair that can become a table or a chaise longue; a walkway flanked by a wetland with lily pads.

    These details and others have been refined over the last several months by designers who plan to create an elevated public walkway out of the High Line, an abandoned railway that runs 30 feet above the city between 10th and 11th Avenues in Manhattan, from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street in the meatpacking district. The most recent digital drawings and renderings, including a 20-foot-long architectural model, go on display at the Museum of Modern Art tomorrow.

    "Landscape architecture and urban design are completely integrated," said the show's curator, Tina di Carlo, an assistant curator in the museum's architecture and design department.

    Construction of the project, designed by the New York-based architectural firms Field Operations and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro, in cooperation with the city and the nonprofit group Friends of the High Line, is expected to begin by year's end.

    However innovative the design, the ultimate aesthetics and workaday experience of the High Line will hinge on how it relates to its surroundings, which are currently in flux. New construction is planned along the High Line, including several buildings that will intersect the railway. In addition, the Jets stadium and convention center, if built, could have a profound impact on the High Line's views and crowds.

    The design team has been focusing on the first phase of the High Line, the southernmost portion, from Gansevoort Street to 15th Street, deciding on elements like seating, security and access. "It's answered a lot of the practical questions we've always had: how do you make it safe, and how do you get up there? At the same time, how do you keep it interesting?" said Robert Hammond, a founder of Friends of the High Line.

    The designers are beginning to consider how the High Line will pass through or abut various new buildings, including a 15-story André Balazs hotel designed by Polshek Partnership at 13th Street; a building designed by Robert A. M. Stern between 17th Street and 18th Street, developed by Edison Properties; and a building designed by Frank Gehry, developed by Georgetown Partners between 18th Street and 19th Street.

    "Yes, it poses technical and financial burdens on the hotel," Mr. Balazs said. "But I think the goal is to embrace it. As difficult as it is, I think it's really worth the challenge."

    Much of the designers' work has been devoted to seeking a balance between preserving what one called "the romance of the ruin" - wild grasses growing up through the metal skeleton of rails and rivets - and creating a fresh green corridor for pedestrians. (The High Line is currently off limits.) "There is an ecosystem in place," said Elizabeth Diller, one of the architects. "The moment you let people up there, that ecosystem will be destroyed. We have to find a way for humans and growth to coexist."

    James Corner, the founder and director of Field Operations, the project's landscape architect, described the challenge as "how to maintain the magic of the High Line as a found landscape in the city, yet at the same time accommodate the numbers of people who want to stroll up there." The concrete planking system is to cover about half of the High Line, a soft layer of vegetation the remainder. But these proportions are flexible; planks can be added to reduce the amount of greenery and vice versa.

    "We're trying to keep this as uncommercialized as possible," said Ricardo Scofidio, another of the architects, "to keep it simple and natural and not to overwhelm it."

    In developing plans for the downtown portion of the High Line, the designers have been focusing on how the walkway will interact with the street, distinguishing among the different entrances in terms of speed - some will provide a slow ascent; others will be more direct. Every access point is to have a presence at ground level.

    The one at Gansevoort, for example, is to feature a large glass-encased area that may be used for a restaurant directly underneath the High Line; it will rise gradually to the walkway, so that people come close to the metal bones of the structure as they move up into it. Also at Gansevoort, where the railway begins, the architects plan to leave the existing exposed section of the High Line, "so you can clearly understand the construction of the structure," Mr. Scofidio said.

    The design calls for a variety of seating options all along the High Line, including loose chairs and benches - "all sorts of combinations as to how the public could inhabit this space," said Ms. di Carlo, the assistant curator. "A couple or a couple with a baby or disabled people or someone walking their dog," she added, "all of that has been studied."

    The designers hope to use the areas of the High Line that are covered by buildings as rental spaces for events to generate revenue. Lighting along the line is to be kept as a soft ambient glow below eye level. The designers expect the area to be monitored by video cameras. The architects plan to keep the original steel railings - "designed to keep locomotives from plunging into the street," Mr. Scofidio said. To meet the code requirements at crosswalks would require the installation of eight-foot walls that would obstruct east-west views. As a result, the architects are planning to add glass or a fine mesh to the railings and to create a wetlands area at 14th Street that will keep people from the edge.

    The show opening tomorrow at the Modern features large-format photographs by Joel Sternfeld, a New York photographer who has documented the High Line's current rough, overgrown condition.

    The design team also includes Piet Oudolf, a horticulturalist; Olafur Eliasson, an artist; and the firm Buro Happold, structural engineers.

    Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit group that successfully fought to save the railway from demolition in 2001, has raised about $3.5 million in private money. The city has committed about $50 million, and support is expected to come from the federal government and the state.

    "For a long time, the mystery of the High Line was it could be anything," said Joshua David, a founder of the High Line group. "Now we have a design developing that retains that same sense of mystery and possibility even as we're narrowing down to a singular vision."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  13. #73

    Thumbs up

    I actually had today in my calendar bookmarked for the launch of this website:

    Check it out, very cool stuff.

  14. #74
    Incredible Sulk aural iNK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    New York City


    I'd like to walk the High Line sometime in the next couple of weeks. How easy is it to do so without getting caught? Any good time of day to lay low?

  15. #75

    Default A Theme Park or a Movie Studio!!.

    I Have 2 Good Ideas for The Locations of The "High" Line:

    1.They Should go w. The Idea of Building a Special NY City Based "Theme Park" W. Rides Such as a Long Roller Coaster That Can Stretch for 5 Blocks or More and Way Better than The CYCLONE At Coney Island!!.

    2.The Building of a Movie Film Studio that Major Film Companies can Used to Make Films About New York and Build 3 or 4 Large Subway Station Like Sets Like What Colombia Pictures had Did out in LA For The Film "Money Train" and Lay Down 2 Sets of Tracks and Use Whatevers left of Those Transit Authority REDBIRD Subway Trains that Were Spared from Being Sent to The Atlantic to a Watery Grave to be Used as an Artificial Reef, This Way a Movie Company Wont have to Worry About Getting Permission from The MTA to Allow a TV Or Film Production Company to Film on MTA Property Such as On Their Trains and Stations,So Basically,This Can be Considered to be a New York Subway Movie Production Type Studio Set Up.

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