Monday, July 13, 2009

Continuous suspension in the air

I first saw plans for the High Line at an Open House New York four years ago. Seeking to rescue the old freight train tracks from demolition, the plan was to transform the elevated tracks into a long narrow park winding its mid-air way, on the west side of Manhattan, from the Meatpacking District to the Clinton and Hell's Kitchen neighborhoods. The first section of the park, running from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened on June 9.

I visited it yesterday, with GAPIMNY, and saw the plans turned into reality. A stone walkway running in the middle of the park guides the strollers. The slots cut into the stone at various places echo the pattern of railway ties, much of which remains by both sides of the walk. The same pattern is repeated in the many benches placed at strategic points for interesting views. The walkway widens into common spaces at a few points. One such space, provided with theater seating, overlooks 10th Avenue.

The plants flanking the walkway are ones commonly found growing along abandoned train tracks. According to the park website, many of the species originally found growing on these tracks were incorporated into the landscaping. Grasses, perennials, shrubs. They give the oxymoronic impression of lush neglect.

The tracks were deliberately built to run through the blocks, instead of over a main road. So the present park shoulders its way through some buildings, giving a level view of third or fourth floor windows of offices and homes, as well as some low rooftops. One could have seen such a view from some vantage point in some building, but before the park opened none could have seen so continuous a view suspended in mid-air. The art photos on the park website do not do justice to the novelty of this view. Perhaps only a film can.


Pam Hart said...

So coincidental...I too visited the High Line park yesterday afternoon. While crowded as one might expect on a beautiful Sunday, the park's walkway was impressive. River views on one side, city scape on the other. I posted a picture on my blog, though it doesn't capture the scene very well. I think you're right about a film. In fact the park felt cinematic to me. Wonder when someone will shoot movie scenes there.

Jee Leong Koh said...

It's a beautiful and innovative addition to the city. I'm sure I will be visiting it again and again.