the highline revisited

Our project for the final undergraduate studio this year is titled ‘The Museum of Unnatural History’ and is sited on the High Line in New York.  More on the strange title will come later. Our studio is heading to New York tomorrow to see the High Line + other projects in New York. What  I love about traveling with professors is that they always have some in on tours and info. This time, it will be tours by members of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Field Operations, the two firms that co-designed the project.

The High Line during its period of disuse and neglect resulted in something beautiful and unurban. The juxtaposition is so strange that it looks like a photshopped image.

The High Line during its period of disuse and neglect resulted in something un-urban and quite beautiful.

This trip will be my fourth visit to the site, but this time through a more architectural and rigorous lens. Over the summer, I fell in love with the project and wrote about it as part of unpublished blog entry called ‘summer favorites’ (unpublished because it seems cheesy?).  Hopefully, I will come back from with a more balanced, critical view of the project, and its the success and inefficiencies.

One of the features that make Europe feel distinctly different from the U.S. is its omnipresent public space.  Barcelona felt like a endless series of plazas and Monselice’s square in a town of 12,000 in Italy, is buzzing with life on a weekend summer night.   After spending four weeks wandering, eating, sleeping in campos, campiellos, plazas, and ramblas, I was glad to have the High Line awaiting me when I returned to New York.

In fact, I had been waiting for the High Line since its MoMA exhibition years ago. The project was less than I expected but more stunning than I could have imagined. Architecturally, it is designed in every detail. DS+R invented a system that allows them to do everything they need for the project. My disappointments are only those differences between the subtle beauty of the renderings and the practicalities of real construction, and also that it is only a few blocks long at the moment.

The real beauty of the High Line is its spatial (sectional) relationship with New York. There exists no other place like it in the city. There are few things as surreal and beautiful as seeing people walking in the sky in Manhattan. From the street below, the pedestrians seem weightless as if they’ve defied the gravitational laws of New York. This feeling of surrealism derives from the fact that the city for many New Yorkers is a (under)ground level universe. The vertical real estate of Manhattan is an exclusive commodity usually reserved for those individuals who can pay to live there or work in places that can afford it. But even then New York is seen behind glass or from the stagnant view of a balcony, never traversing intersections in the open air like you do on the High Line. In the end, it  feels more ‘public’ than ground-level public parks  because it gives access to a previously exclusive and privately owned vertical dimension of  New York. What is also impressive is that the architecture is never a distraction. The design stays quiet without lacking complexity and power,  encouraging the public to experience the city in a way it never has before.

– August 2009

The High Line today with the tapering concrete strips and wild looking plants.

The High Line today with the tapering concrete strips and wild looking plants.

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3 Responses to “the highline revisited”


  1. 1 lizcourt September 26, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    I’ve never heard of the High Line, but it’s a lovely idea…. it sounds like a wonderfully breath of air amid the bustle of the city!

    and SPEAKING of trips with professors and NYC, I’m going up there with my art history class the weekend before thanksgiving! That’s Nov 20-22. any chance you’ll be back by then? …

  2. 2 ytiffanie September 28, 2009 at 7:06 am

    mmm…height as commodity. any profound chats w DS+R?? i can’t wait to see it when i go to nyc with my photo class next next weekend.

    btw, melissa+campana jellies (now you know where to get your next pair):
    http://www.melissaaustralia.com.au/shoe/campana

    • 3 lijeans October 7, 2009 at 2:06 am

      there was nothing too profound with ds+r, but notice the different kinds of stairs at the various entry points, the sectional view from street level at gansvoort street, varying proportions of hard to soft spaces, and the changing heights of the softscape and your relationship to it. go at the night too if possible, the lighting is beautiful and subtle. also, the standard is nice, so you should walk in and look around….

      yes, i had been eyeing those, but i decided two weeks ago that i am tired of plastic shoes! i need to move on with my life. also, i think i’m going to do one of those chictopia outfit pictures things……


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