An ambitious blend of landscape architecture, urban design and historic preservation, the now-famous New York City High Line Park is now open to the public. This remarkable adaptive reuse project appropriated a controversial landmark (or eyesore, depending on who you ask) in the heart of the city: a 1.5-mile-long stretch of elevated railway.
To those of us with architecture, landscape and/or urban design backgrounds the idea of demolishing a structure that snakes above and through the center of one of the most amazing cities on the planet is a unthinkable. Nonetheless, most people did not initially see the incredible potential of this lofted thoroughfare, so aged and so long unused.
Once a vocal enough set of supporters through their weight behind this preservation project, however, designers from around the world competed for the privledge of reenvisioning a space that would become central to its bustling urban environment. The winning architects (Diller + Scoffidio) submitted a design that respected the integrity of what was left of the structure, including wild-growing plants, ambiguous paths and the existing rail lines.
The delicate reconstruction of the High Line involved extensive structural testing along its entire length, removing and marking rails for future replacement and the integration of hundreds of plants and soil types to create a huge biodiverse park that changes in material and plant color and texture with each twist and turn.
At its opening, the High Line still remains far from complete – some areas are yet to be fully developed and many plants have yet to grow to their full size. Moreover, many developments are planned around the elevated park structure – encouraged by the renovation to come and compete for the business the new construction will attract.