The High Line

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The High Line. Definitely one of the memorable and enjoyable experiences from this trip.

For starters, imagine an old, elevated rail line (hence the name “High Line") situated amidst a dreary warehouse district. Then, imagine it repurposed into a park, skillfully decorated with beautiful contemporary landscaping and adorned with chic flowers and ornamentation that provides for a wild, unkempt look. Throw in bold, almost surreal contemporary architecture and voila! The result is a tranquil, almost idyllic city space for all.

The park, a lofty redevelopment of an abandoned rail line that once serviced the myriad meatpacking plants in the area, was executed almost flawlessly. In fact, the end-result is so good that I’d vouch it’s a “must-visit” for anybody visiting NYC. Impressive, to say the least, the crowded sideways where freight and cargo once rolled are now bedecked in beautifully-manicured grasses and fauna with ambient lights; sleek modernist benches on wheels; and futuristic, Blade Runner-esque violet underpass lighting.

Other cool features include cantilevered glass observation decks /amphitheater over 10th Ave and the seamless re-working and adaptation of the previous infrastructure into the finished product. Ridged cement and exotic fauna and flora, such as rare Amazonian woods, smoke trees, clump-forming grasses, various birches, and even preexisting weeds and plants all add to this effect. Furthermore, in a time where many city parks have fallen under the grip to unsightly and rude homeless beggars and have merely become places for dogs to relieve themselves (I’m talking to you, Pershing Square), the HL stands out for such is not only absent, but seemingly forbidden.

IMO, it’s not only one of the better public spaces, but is also an equally good juxtaposition between the natural and man-made realms. Nestled on the extreme west side of Manhattan, amongst a former meatpacking district (recently christened “MePa”) and one of the country’s most prominent gay ghettos, Chelsea, the park serves as an oasis in the concrete jungle by softening its harsh urban surroundings. This lovely interpretation of a derelict property leads me to believe that there really is some truth to the statement that at some point in time, “everything that is old becomes new again.” Seriously, who would have thought an old, abandoned elevated railroad would have survived the building demolition pogroms of the post-war era, let alone be redeveloped and given a new lease on life? (and into something nice, at that).

All hail to the High Line, for it is no doubt a grand matrimony between the old and the new, thus by default, also a triumph in 21st century urban planning. Yes indeed.

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