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Take a Walk on the High Line

August 21, 2013

The High Line in NYC is probably the most interesting and talked about urban regeneration project in recent years. I think it really deserves a special attention and as I visited New York last year it was on top of my list. I took some pictures (apologise for the bad quality) and will use them to explain my views.

Initiators of the project are Robert Hammond and Joshua David, who founded the Friends of the High Line. They are currently invited to several urban seminars and conferences by public bodies eager to learn from their experience. This project is a flagship urban regeneration project especially for the participative and bottom-up approach. In fact the initiators do not belong to the institutionally responsible actors of town planning. They are not developers, professionals, public officers or politicians. At least not in the strict sense of these terms. They belong to what is called civil society. They were able to take the initiative and involve public authorities, planners and the private sector in making this dream a reality. A beautiful, sensible and very concrete reality. So that now every town around the world would like to have his own High Line. Hopefully that will not generate another “Bilbao effect”.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (1)

The neighbourhood of the High Line (between the 30th and 14 Street along the 10th Avenue) is everything but spectacular, in comparison to other parts of NYC. This is the first reason that makes the project so interesting. This is not just another park, that was needed and it is changing the character of the whole neighbourhood around it!

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (2)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (4)

Last year in September, as we were there, works were still ongoing, I guess they still are today and I wish they will last for a long time. That makes the laboratory feeling of the High Line even stronger. You can see this public space in the making, you can see the different layers, the old bones and muscles of the aged infrastructure turning into a great public space.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (5)

Change is made by design and by people using the space. Although the weather was not particularly fine, the walkway was crowded. And although it was crowded there were no congestion problems. On the contrary, along the path you can easily find small quiet spaces aside from the stream of visitors.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (6)

Don’t know whether this is a famous artist or not, but the picture below suits to the High Line. It tells about the willpower and assertiveness that was necessary to achieve this result.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (7)

Another strong point of the project is the integration of plants and flowers in a beautiful mix. Far away from a picturesque old fashion manner it reflects the idea of nature not just as a means of leisure and delight for mankind, but as a real stakeholder. Possibly able to regain the urban ground if mankind fails to keep control.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (8)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (9)

Architectural landscape is made of broken elements, remains of failed attempts to establish a logic in the urban fabric. Together with the ubiquitous NYC Grid the High Line is the strongest landmark in the neighbourhood. Today finally conscious to be more than a derelict freight railway.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (10)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (11)

The landscape changes quickly along the 1,6 Km park, maintaining the NYC collage character, but also leaving space for a faraway sight which is not so common in Manhattan.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (12)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (13)

Like every successful public space the High Line is an excellent shop-window for people to show and promote their own activities, attracting young entrepreneurs, especially from the creative sectors.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (14)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (15)

Another great thing about the High Line is the re-establishment of a fair relationship between people and cars. NYC is doing well in promoting public transport and cycling since years anyway, but this is another full strike.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (16)

Walking on top of cars, listening to music or reading a book, not having to look at traffic lights, left or right. That is pleasant and brings visitors back to an immediate relaxed and natural relationship with the built environment.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (17)

NYC is the home of differences, so that what elsewhere would be incoherent, here it is at the right place: tropical vegetation between a concrete facade and stainless steel handrails,

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (18)

 a kitsch car design shop next to a minimal terrace bar adjoining an abandoned building with walled-up windows.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (19)

Somebody used the street as a canvas to draw alternative mobility patterns. Or are they the signs of  some underground infrastructural channels?

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (20)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (21)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (22)

Also some unnecessary work of arts belong to the urban landscape. And people, people and again people, everywhere, enjoying public space.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (23)

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi (24)

Back on the ground, life goes on as usual, but if you look up to the High Line, you think that this place will certainly get better.

NYC High Line Sept 2012 Borghi

Here is Robert Hammond telling the true story of the High Line at the Harvard Graduate School of Design

Here a review from Time Magazine

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2013 12:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to visiting the high line; I’d like to choose a less congested time and check out the planting and people.

    • August 21, 2013 1:28 pm

      Good idea, but which will be the less congested time? Maybe during the week, but then you will find mostly tourists… Best to you!

  2. August 22, 2013 4:01 am

    great work! the high line is wonderful.

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