Departmental Field Trip: The Highline

In September the Landscape Architecture department made visits to New York City, Philidelphia, and Charlotte.  I chose to attend the New York visit and it was great to get back to the city after about 10 years of being away.  We visited the redesigned Times Square, Paley, Columbus Circle, and Central Park to name a few, but I have to say the work that really spoke to me was the Highline.

There are few projects that have received so much critical acclaim in such a short time (section 1 opened summer 2009 and section 2 opened this past summer).  There were two things that impressed me the most; the attention to detail and the way the elevated walk crates a diorama of the city itself.  By providing the visitor with a completely unique perspective from which to view the city that many have lived in for many years, suddenly the city infrastructure and architecture demands attention.

This is a talking water fountain.  If someone pushes the button for water a speaker pumps out a greeting and some information on the project.  Cool the first time,  annoying the 3rd time.  Creative nonetheless.

The benches….actually this is only one variation but definitely the best display of materiality.  The pavers literally disengage to meet the softer wooden slats.  Seemless is a good adjective to describe the project in general.  The industrial material choices echo the surrounding cityscape.  The walkway acts as though it was imply dropped by a crane onto the top of this elevated railway.  Portions of the rails themselves have been saved and incorporated into siteplan.

Some of the most memorable parts of the walk were the viewing platforms where the designers had created lookouts where park visitors could sit and watch the drama of the city unfold below them.  The 10th street platform for instance lets visitors descend into a sort of amphitheater space with a frame in front of them that looks up 10th street toward midtown.  So you’re walking along, as I mentioned before, and you’re thinking to yourself, “this makes city-life seem almost theatrical,” and you reach the 10th street platform and the metaphor becomes literal.

The plants were wonderful as well.  It must be insane the millions of cubic feet of planting media that was hauled up onto that track.   And for such a long, linear park, I never got bored with the plant combinations.  The transitions were spaced just close enough to keep my interest, but just far enough to stretch the combinations without becoming redundant.