Thursday, July 14, 2011

I missed the opening of the Highline Phase 2...

Postcard from High Line exhibition at MoMA that I have saved as a design inspiration since 2005

The High Line Phase 2 opened in June, a few weeks after I flew back to Goa. It makes me sad to not be there and experience it for myself.

I have been tracking the High Line project since 2003 when there was a design competition to transform an abandoned freight railway line in Manhattan into a public park system. The competition was won by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

In 2005, there was an exhibition at MoMA with a large scale detailed model of the highline that was suspended within the gallery and hung in mid-air. The design and exhibition was so very inspiring for the young architect/ planner in me. I marvelled at the way the architects had proposed a design that preserved the historic legacy of the space, while introducing a new park system that balanced planted green areas along with paved usable spaces.

High Line exhibition at MoMA
I love the contemporary use of material along with new age designs for every element including the precast concrete finger like paving that weaves into the planting beds, the floating street furniture, and special areas for seating and congregation that celebrated the city by framing views and entrances. The relationship to surroundings is further heightened when buildings bridge over the High Line (few older industrial buildings and of course the new Standard Hotel). The entire project represents the brilliance of the architects and embodies their passion for the city, contemporary design and building materials.

The original tracks that were carefully replaced back in their original position after the restoration work
The finger-line pre-cast concrete paving that weaves into the green spaces. Planting beds are planted with native species of grasses and wildflowers so they require less maintenance and water

Floating landscape furniture in new age contemporary design

Amphitheater that looks onto the city streets and celebrates the chaos

Our takeaways from the High Line for our project in Goa are as follows:
- Need for a comprehensive understanding of the site and the project's relevance to its surroundings. Preservation of this understanding and relationship in the proposed design.
- Excellence in design and attention to detail with a passion for perfection
- Integration of contemporary design while preserving the historic legacy of the place
- Fearless new and innovative use of material
- Use of native species of plants to propose a landscape that requires little maintenance, water and other resources

Hotel Standard built over the High Line

My favorite view from the High Line framing a Gehry building and a Jean Nouvel building. 


  1. What an amazing project. I love ideas like these where existing or abandoned infrastructure is put to new uses. I'm all in favor of adding green spaces where ever possible. In Goa, we must look at greening existing spaces around our living areas as much as we can. There's really no other alternative. We can't rely on the administration to do this, anymore. Thanks for the post, AM!

  2. Awesome pictures, and the design is indeed inspiring. I am going to check the project out when I am in NYC next.

  3. High Line is a special project and hopefully a precedent that will result in similar projects in other cities around the world. There is another program in the US, called 'rails to trails' that enables constituencies to convert abandoned rail lines into nature trails and walking trails.

    These projects are of course very complex, specially as such abandoned infrastructure are brownfield sites, meaning contaminated over the years due to transportation of industrial freight (heavy metals, chemicals, etc.). Plus the rail tracks themselves rust and degrade into the surrounding land. So the redevelopment requires careful remediation along with the design efforts.

    In the end, the result is that of rejuvenation of an existing abandoned part of the city/ town/ region, more space for recreation for locals and responsible reuse of existing infrastructure.

    There is another very cool project in New York called the Freshkills Park where they are converting 2200 acres of landfill (where the cities trash was collected) into a park system.



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