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The Highline Debate...

- Nick Aster - Wednesday, March 29th, 2006 : goo

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The Highline project has taken New York by storm. If you're not in New York, you might have never heard of it - it's a plan to turn an abandoned elevated railway into a linear park of sorts, and it was the dream project of practically every architect and urban planner in existence last summer. Here's a very cool flash demonstration of what it might ultimately look like.

It's also gained incredible amounts of local support and enthusiasm - I went to the unveiling of the 4 finalist designs last summer at the AIA and there were so many people there you couldn't get in the door - I've never seen anything like it. To me, this alone is confirmation that the project is a really good idea. Still, critics have pointed out that linear parks can be problematic (Galbraith) and in the case of the highline, there is the added dark and potentially dreary underside of the rail line to come to grips with.

But New York is such a unique city that it's almost impossible to predict what will "work" and what "wont". Given the fast adapting nature of Manhattan these days, I find it hard to belive the project will fail, or fall into obscurity.

And anyway, what's wrong with linear parks? They're not necesarily supposed to mimic the same function as other green gathering places. They can function fantastically as transportation cooridors for walkers and bikers, away from traffic and the negatives of the city, and that alone makes them awesome.

There's no guarantee that the project will ever see the kind of grandiouse plans currently laid out for it. If anything, there's a risk of it being "over-designed" to the point of brain paralysis (watch the flash demo). But either way, it's sure to attract instant fans when people see it for the first time (as Kottke points out).

The Promenade Plantee in Paris - the closest thing to a high-line that currently exists (though I've never actually seen it) has been around for a long time and is apparantly well loved. If the highline is half as popular, it'll be a huge success in my book!

This article has been viewed 14584 times in the last 10 years

Peter: 29th Mar 2006 - 15:15 GMT

linear parks can be problematic? how about ? its one of my all-time favorite parks in ... not only have i spent countless hours lounging about in it on sunny days, watching the river flow by, but i also used it for my daily bike-commute from 47th street to 168th street almost every day for two years. its a perfect example of a dual-purpose public space.

the project... i havent heard as much buzz about this lately as i did last year, but i do look forward to seeing it reach some sort of (hopefully non-overwrought) fruition. the surly new yorker side of me sort of delights in the grittiness of the rusty, dliapidated -covered iron hulk, where the only way you can access it is by sneaking through gates or climbing tressles and drainpipes... but my more rational side says this project is a good thing, for sure, and i cant wait to see it happen.

now, lets hope it doesnt go the way of the rest of that area of town and get too chi-chi for anyone to practically enjoy ;)

spygirl_t: 29th Mar 2006 - 17:23 GMT

I have been to a few of them in Paris.. I'll try to get some pics posted by tonight. Personally I think it's a great idea, who doesn't want more green space?

GGP: 29th Mar 2006 - 18:02 GMT

the "friends of the highline" folks have really fought the good fight to get to this point--I wish them luck. I think it's a great project and they've done a great job, both in terms of process and (intended) "product."

Myke: Great article, thanks for sharing.

jeeff: 30th Mar 2006 - 01:48 GMT

agreed, i'd never heard of this before and i'm glad that now i have.

jack: 30th Mar 2006 - 03:08 GMT

instead of tearing down the west side highway with all that wonderful cobblestone, they should have made it a pedestrian way. new yorkers should have more green and more free walking space.

elaine: 30th Mar 2006 - 08:56 GMT

we've got a linear park here, along the canal it's improved the neighbourhood no end

HA: 1st Jun 2006 - 02:05 GMT

Where are the spots to sneak into the Highline at?

Thanks in advance...

Peter: 1st Jun 2006 - 02:49 GMT

anywhere the girders holding it up form a criss-cross shape. you can scale that shit like a ladder.


Franny Wentzel: 19th Jun 2007 - 02:10 GMT

They should leave it for Nature to reclaim.

Franny Wentzel: Bring back elevated trains!

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