New York’s High Line

Throughout history, many structures are built. Many prevail, while others deteriorate or are torn down. In today’s world we live a life threatened by climate change and concern for sustainable life practices. As architects, we design more than just buildings, we design experiences, we design lifestyles, we design interactions and activities, and it is also our responsibility to design in ways that embrace the built environment for what it is, and not constantly clear away land or destroy structures to put up new ones.


Landscape Architects do this often, and New York’s High Line park is no exception. James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro inherited an old abandoned railroad track on Manhattan’s lower west side. In this case, the architects used an abandoned structure to create a gorgeous park, that has become one of NYC’s biggest tourist attractions, and a place for New Yorkers to escape the hustle and bustle of the streets below and quite literally “rise above” their stresses.

The project itself embraces the preceding history of the site, using the tracks to establish the repetitive theme and geometry of the project. All the moves in the project feature linear design elements to mimic the tracks.

Projects like this are not only great examples of restoration architecture, but show the power of landscape architecture in creating public spaces that change the dynamic of cities and neighborhoods. The project also allows for stunning views of New York City from a new perspective. Through streets the cut behind buildings, exposing a fabric of the city that is otherwise unknown to the average passer by.


Photography by : Iwan Baan

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Maissa Hamed says:

    Surprisingly I haven’t visited this park yet but after this article I am going to be adamant about doing so. Thanks for a great read.


    1. zmelwakil says:

      Yes you absolutely should. It is one of the few places in the city where you can go and be so engulfed within the buildings that you almost forget you are in Manhattan.


  2. Maissa Hamed says:

    Thank you will do !


  3. Tota Hunter says:

    I would’t say the moves in the project “mimic” the track but rather parallel or accentuate what was already there.

    This might be going off a tangent but this project reminds me of a thesis proposal I saw this year for creating a new type of pedestrian walk way that is elevated from the ground level. My impression was that they were essentially proposing a “highway” for pedestrians, for a safer and more accessible route for people who choose to walk everywhere. Something like Robert Moses did for cars, reconnecting parts of cities but for pedestrians. As I was discussing this with some of our classmates, some issues we saw with the proposal was how then do we integrate the same pedestrian experience we get on the ground level once it’s elevated, like window shopping, entering a building and other small details that are beside the point that I am trying to make. Which is: Would the Highline be a good start to this proposition? Or is the project as a whole only promoting restoration and creating a park rather than a new experience for pedestrian life? Is this type of landscape architecture powerful enough to really change the dynamic of cities and neighborhoods?


    1. zmelwakil says:

      Tota, thank you for your comment!

      I think you bring up a very interesting point. Especially in projects like this where Architects experiment with taking something that is culturally and socially already established (the sidewalk culture you mentioned) and push it in a new direction, in this case and elevated park. I think this has a lot to do with where projects like this are placed. In an busy urban setting like downtown Manhattan, a project like this could thrive, as NYC culture is always changing and always driven by trying new things. Would the same be true in a traditional historic town like Boston? Perhaps not. One thing I remember James Corner said when he visited Syracuse in the fall was that the High Line has created a new “elevated” sidewalk culture. Artists and performers started playing out of their windows for passers by on the High Line. This can be compared to street performers, a common sight on NYC sidewalks. In a sense your comment raises questions of the future. Especially in crowded cities like New York, where do we see new urban projects thriving, in ripping up old neighborhoods and putting down new parks, or in taking the fabric of an established urban setting and giving it a makeover?


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