Sunday, August 30, 2009

High Line Park

I spent a rainy Saturday morning at the new High Line Park in New York City. The park is built on top of elevated freight train tracks in the trendy Meatpacking district of New York. The picture above shows the Gansevoort Woodland at the south entrance. For many years, the tracks were abandoned (the last train ran in 1980) and had become filled with all kinds of volunteer plants. A few far-sighted residents had the ability to appreciate the wild nature that had appeared in the heart of the city and fought to protect the tracks from demolition.

The first section of the park opened this past June. Instead of a scruffy, debris strewn gravel path, the city now has a sleekly designed park that is attracting lots of new development to the area.

In the image below, you can see the old tracks remnants artfully re-arranged with lush new plantings.

Walking along the path was a very relaxing experience, at least on this desolate morning. You still experience the sounds and energy of the city, but at a comforting distance.

The park was beautifully designed by the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations, along with the architectural firm Diller Scofidia + Renfro. Living in Williamsburg, I sometimes I feel starved for contemporary design so it's great to visit places like the High Line. I loved the carefully thought out details like the new concrete paving that weaves its way through the park, disintegrating along its edges into richly designed plant beds.

The planting design uses over 200 species of plants including clethra, paper birch, sunflowers, heucheras, asters, sumac and many varieties of grasses. The beds were surprisingly well established, loking as if they looked like they had been growing there for several years. Some of the plants in bloom late August were liatris,


mountain mint,

and this little flower which I didn't recognize:

I was surprised at the complexity of the planting scheme, until I learned that it was designed by Piet Oudolf. No one can design a planting plan like he can!

Throughout the park are many seats made of concrete and/or sustainably harvested ipe. Many of the seats are cantilevered, almost like they had been peeled up from the pavement. On this rainy day the benches had a stark beauty.

The benches are very similar to the benches at the new Pentagon Memorial (below). I'm not sure where this look started, but it's definitely a trend. In five years, this is what all our benches will look like.

One section of the park cleverly makes use of the train tracks with movable lounge chairs.

The 10th Avenue Square is a handsome wooden amphitheater that looks directly out over 10th avenue. The seats are formed out of a continuous ramp offering seats of varying sizes. There's at least one spot in the square that is custom made for you.

I'm looking forward to going back on a sunnier day to get a better idea of how the park is used by visitors. I'd also like to see the soon to be completed Diller - Von Furstenberg Sundeck and Water Feature (doesn't that roll off the tongue) in action. If you're interested in further reading about the park, the New York Times has a great collection of articles and interactive features to check out.


Janet said...

What an interesting park. I like the hard surfaces in contrast with the movement of the grasses. Really really interesting garden space to share, thanks.
Telling my buddy who lives in NY to check it out...I wonder if she has already.

Susan aka Miss. R said...

We must have been there within 24 hours of each other...I was there on Friday afternoon and evening. I put my thoughts up today. Interesting.

danger garden said...

Beautiful! I read about this park when it was in the design stages, thank you for showing the finished product. Love it! What a magical place, wonderful that the tracks were not torn down.

Jonathan Clarke said...

Looks like a really terrific scheme and one that I'd love to see in person. It's all pretty cutting edge stuff and in particular, the decision to let the design retain a sense of dereliction is inspired.

Thanks for posting!

Jeff said...

I think I like the rolling lounge chairs best of all! This is an amazing idea. Did you happen to see the NY Times story a couple of weeks back about the new hotel with floor-to-ceiling non-tinted windows that face directly into the park at floor level? Apparently there's quite a show being put on by the guests, who seem to think that the folks in the park can't see what they're doing in their hotel rooms!

how it grows said...

I did hear about that but since I was there in the morning there wasn't any action going on. It would have made for some interesting shots for my blog!

xenonelmagnifico said...

Does anyone know exactly what the model name is of the movable ipe wood lounge chairs used at the highline sundeck?

How It Grows said...

I'm guessing the lounge chair was custom built.