Urban/Rural Tension


Last night Wen and I went to a presentation about the architecture behind the High Line.  For those who don’t know, the High Line is an old elevated train line that runs from Gansevoort to the rail yards behind Penn Station.  It was built in the 1930s, but a train hasn’t run since 1980.

They actually built it as too many people were getting killed by a street level train - it was so bad that a cowboy had to ride in front of the trains to clear the streets; he was known as the “West Side Cowboy” on the “Avenue of Death”.  Here’s a photo of construction:

It was slated for demolition, but a lawsuit by the Friends of the High Line led to a temporary stay against that (in part due to a great series of photos by Joe Sternfeld).

They then held an ideas competition where over 700 teams submitted proposals to turn the High Line into a civic space; two of the more interesting ones included turning it into either a roller coaster or swimming pool.

However, in the end, the team of Diller Scofidio & Renfro and Field Operations won with their proposal to turn the High Line into a park (the first section will open next summer).

Take a look at the photos below to get a sense of what it will look like.  We heard Scofidio talk last night and he gave three insights to what guided their design:

1) It should be a “slow” park: it’s about gentle movement through the city, not quickly getting from place to place

2) The park should let you see the city from a new perspective - and is designed so as not to obstruct the city views.  Note that there are no light posts and all the lighting is below eye level so that you can see everything

3) The new park should keep the “tension” between the urban nature of the old railway line and the new nature that is trying to take it over.  To this extent, they’ve created a series of tapered concrete planks that vegetation can grow around; they can also move the planks to new areas based upon how people actually use the park (take a look at the first and second images below).

If you’re jonesing for more, you can read everything about the High Line in this PDF.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

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