Who designed the High Line Park

The line of death, as the New Yorkers once called it because workers were killed every day on the former railway line, will open as a floating garden in a few months: in the middle of a part of Manhattan characterized by port and trade, the is currently being built on the remains of the abandoned elevated railway The first section of a park that winds its way between buildings at a height of eight meters for several kilometers. The happy transformation is a victory for courageous citizens: the High Line would almost have been torn down in favor of a profitable development. Now it is still becoming a magnet for real estate agents.

~ From the English by Dagmar Ruhnau

  • Landscape Architects: Field Operations Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
  • Review: Fred Bernstein Photos: Timothy Schenck, Joel Sternfeld

The opening of Central Park around 1860 was one of the seminal events that established New York's reputation as an extraordinary city. The park not only improved the quality of life for the increasing number of residents, it also brought the ›

›Real estate prices a hierarchical order: houses and apartments with a view of the park were suddenly worth more than other properties in the same area. In fact, the value added by the park turned out to be far higher than the cost of its facility.

The park as a real estate magnet

Something similar now seems to be happening in the small-scale Meat Packing District and in some neighborhoods of West Chelsea in the extreme southwest of Manhattan. Although the park that is currently being built there will only cover 2.8 hectares, Central Park, on the other hand, has 337 hectares. But this park, laid out on an abandoned elevated railway line called the High Line and in an area where everything seems to happen very quickly anyway, affects its surroundings before it's even finished. The first phase of construction, which extends over eight hundred meters (eight blocks) from Gansevoort Street in the south to 20th Street, will open this coming winter. Real estate developers on both sides of the High Line are already trying to outbid each other with eye-catching architecture. The latest developments include the Standard Hotel by Polshek Partnership Architects, which is built on 14th Street over the High Line, and the HL23, a high-rise apartment building on 23rd Street, designed by Neil Denari, one of the rising stars of architecture

New Yorks. The Whitney Museum, in turn, is planning a branch along the High Line to be designed by Renzo Piano. With the "new" High Line, the beautiful and the rich are now also coming to the area.

Ironically, however, the interests of real estate speculators almost led to the demolition of the High Line. Built in the 1930s to move goods between warehouses in West Manhattan, it was shut down in the late 1970s. Unused, it degenerated into a rusty colossus. That aroused desires among property developers. They succeeded in having some parts amputated at the southern end of the High Line. And they demanded to be allowed to tear down the rest as well. The city almost agreed.

Initiative for conversion

However, some visionary New Yorkers considered the High Line to be a relic worth preserving, not only as industrial architecture, but also because of the open space it keeps open in this insatiable city. In 1999, two residents of the area - one an artist (Robert Hammond), the other a writer (Joshua David) - attended a community meeting and quickly found themselves in the middle of a discussion on how to save the High Line. They soon founded the “Friends of the High Line” association and solicited support for its preservation. One of the best moves turned out to be the idea of ​​convincing photographer Joel Sternfeld to take pictures of the High Line. These revealed a hidden world of trees and wild plants that most New Yorkers were unaware of. The haunting photos were published many times and the pristine nature eight meters above Manhattan became the talk of the town.

Hammond and David soon had, among others, actors Kevin Bacon and Ed Norton as well as cookbook author and society lady Martha Stewart ›

›Top-class support. At the same time, they had promises from the city administration not only to maintain the High Line, but also to contribute financially to its restoration and maintenance. An ideas competition organized in 2002, whose jury included New York architects Steven Holl and Bernard Tschumi, received 720 designs from 36 countries. The overwhelming participation is due on the one hand to the international tender, on the other hand simply to the great interest in New York after 9/11 and the intriguing task. One of the winners, Nathalie Rinne from Vienna, suggested a 2.5 kilometer long swimming pool; another, Hugo Beschoor Plug from Berlin, a construction called the “Black Market Crawler” that was supposed to move up and down the rails at night. The following year, Hammond and David organized a second competition aimed at producing viable designs.

The winners in this competition were the landscape architects Field Operations together with the architects Diller + Scofidio (now Diller, Scofidio + Renfro), both based in Manhattan, and numerous other participants. In 2004 her design - a play of crystalline forms against the backdrop of lush gardens - was exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art, and visitors were impressed. Although some skeptics feared that it would “never be built like this”, it became clear during a recent construction site visit that the park is becoming more and more impressively similar to the drawings in MoMA.

Creative self-control

The connecting element of the 180 million dollar park is a floor covering made of long precast concrete parts, each of which is narrower at one end so that plants can grow in the spaces in between. A wide variety of species, from mosses to wild flowers, should, so to speak, penetrate the surface to the top: a convincing merging of city and nature. The deliberately meandering footpath will lead to pools of water, a sun deck with views of the Hudson and an amphitheater (Figs. 7-10), built over 10th Avenue, where the traffic below will create the spectacle. Where the High Line becomes narrower, a metal catwalk will rise 2.50 m above the level of the former tracks (Fig. 12). Vinegar trees (Rhus typhina) will grow on both sides of the footbridge, so that visitors to the park will walk along as if in a forest under a canopy of leaves.

The Dutch landscape gardener Piet Oudolf suggested 14 other tree species, including cherries, hazel and medlar. He planned differently humid areas, from swampy land to moss areas to different meadows - with pillow-shaped, fan-like and individually growing grasses, flowers with strong colors, with evergreen, subtle to colorful blooming plants and climbing plants, from wild vines to clematis. The structure of the soil works in a similar way to a green roof: on the waterproof concrete with which the High Line is covered, there is a corrugated black drainage mat, on top of which is a layer of fine gravel for drainage. A filter fleece separates the gravel layer from the clayey, coarse subsoil, which is covered with mineral-rich ›

›Top floor is covered. Until the first plants are planted at the beginning of autumn, the soil remains covered against erosion by wind and rain.

How the visitors get to the High Line was the greatest challenge for the architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro. They call their design "slow staircases" - steps with such a gentle incline that visitors will automatically take their time climbing up. Elevators are also being installed in several places. The architectural interventions should be so simple that the High Line can develop its own dominance - and not its new design elements; according to Elizabeth Diller "an exercise in creative self-control". The lighting close to the ground will gently illuminate the park and not distract from the Manhattan skyline.

Green density above the hustle and bustle of the city

The trees and other vegetation may not be in bloom when the High Line opens to the public next winter, but that's part of the plan: As the initiators fear large numbers of visitors in the future, they want to open their plant out of season. This gives them the opportunity to make final corrections to facilities and plantings before the expected summer rush. They hope that visitors will behave civilly and considerately towards the green spaces.

In a city where people are in constant motion, the elevated landscape is “broken up, fragmented; nothing will be straight, ”says James Corner, founder of Field Operations, explaining the design idea. "The park will give people the opportunity to stroll." For New York this will probably have been a dream come true. •

Client: NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, NYC Economic Development Corporation, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding, NYC Department of City Planning, Friends of the High Line Landscape Architects: Field Operations, New York Employees: James Corner, Tom Jost , Lisa Switkin, Nahyun Hwang, Maura Rockcastle, Sierra Bainbridge, Danilo Martic Architects: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York Garden design / landscape gardener: Piet Oudolf, Hummelo (NL) Lighting design: L'Observatoire International, New York Signage / signage system: Pentagram Design , Inc., New York Structural engineering / technical equipment: Buro Happold, New York Structural engineering / structural maintenance: Robert Silman Associates, New York Civil engineering / site renovation: GRB Services, Inc., New York Usable area: 2.79 hectares Construction costs: 170 million US $ Construction period: construction phase 1: 2006 to 2008, construction phase 2: 2007 to 2009

The information comes from "Friends of the High Line", who supported us with planning material, among other things. The planners themselves unfortunately decided against supporting this publication.

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