Henri Frédéric Amiel once said ‘Any landscape is a condition of the spirit.’ This particular landscape evokes a history and feelings of both our industrial past as a nation and symbols of our natural development. It also displays an evolution in our culture through the transition from an industrial necessity to an outlet of public leisure and education. The High Line is a condition of the spirit through representing these ideas of past and present as well facilitating a natural landscape in an urban environment in a combination of organic and inorganic materials- dirt and concrete.
The High Line is the of a development project in the 1930s that took place on the west side of Manhattan, which was formerly the largest industrial district on the island. According to the Friends of the High Line it once lifted freight traffic to a line 30ft above street level keeping larger frights off of the streets. The last freight to run on the line was in 1980. The Friends of the High Line are responsible for the renovation and support of the high line and was formed in the late 1990s when the line was going to be destroyed by the city.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the city supported the initiatives proposed by the Friends of the High Line. In 2005 the High Line south of 30th street was given by CSX Transportation INC to the city. The park opened in sections, the first during the summer of 2009 and the second in the spring of 2011. If you are interested more in the history of the park click here for a comprehensive timeline of the High Line.
As I was traveling through the park, I noticed there was a strong focus on native species of shrubs, grasses, trees and perennials.
The design was the result of a collaboration between between James Corner Field Operations (Project Lead), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and planting designer Piet Oudolf. Inspiration for the design was the high line itself, incorporating many of the species of grasses and wildflowers that were growing on the structure prior to turing it into a park.
Another interesting feature of the high line is the transition from an industrial district to what is now a greenway and a desirable real estate spot. Walking down the high line past buildings that were once subject to noise and environmental pollution, now these buildings are home to high end contemporary lofts and brick apartments equip with emergency stairs with a view.
Overall, this project has combined urban, historical and ecological restoration to bring focus back to natural spaces within urban environments. It will be interesting to see how this project will influence future urban projects such restoration in New Orleans, Philadelphia or as featured in GOOD.is today as the “High Line Effect.”