I visited the High Line twice this year, the first was on a 35 degree bright blue sky day in February and another was a 70 degree beautiful clear sky September afternoon. What I first noticed was the popularity of the elevated urban park throughout the year by both New Yorker’s and tourists alike. The second was the carefully detailed walkways and hardscape of the former elevated fright rail line. What is remarkable about 1.5 mile long promenade is the detailing of the precast walkway planks, woven intermittently with steel rails. The planks sinuously rise and splay from the deck to capture landscape beds and plants push their way through the spaces. In another detail the planks sculpturally sweep up from the deck to form benches made of wooden slats with stainless steel spacers. These woven materials create textures that re-image the linear nature of the historic steel rails and ties of the former rail line. This subtile historical reference brings tremendous character and authenticity to the park experience.
The designers of the park were chosen through six month competition where 52 teams submitted qualifications and four teams were short listed to present concepts for the 20 block long park. The design team of James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro won the competition and beautifully orchestrated a wide array of design professionals including structural engineers, landscape architects, horticultural, art and urban planning professionals to create the redevelopment.
Bottom Line: Design of the High Line has taken a rundown train trestle and transformed the Chelsea neighborhood into a popular urban destination that has leveraged $115 million urban park/development into $2 Billion Dollars of private development. Real estate that was valued at 8% below median market value in 2003 shot up 108% by 2011. That is a great example of how design increases the bottom line.