Last year i was lucky enough to spend seven weeks travelling in America. One of the highlights of my trip was New York city.
This was my second visit to the Big Apple. Unfortunately the first time i ran around ticking off all the big tourist attractions and then departed with extremely sore feet! When i probably should have tried to soak up some of the intense atmosphere that New York provides with its cafes, bars and awesome nightlife.
This time I spent some time exploring The Highline. I stayed in Chelsea so it was just a few blocks walk from the apartment i had hired for my time in the city.
For those of you who dont know – The Highline is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.
It is a design collaboration between James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and planting designer Piet Oudolf.
Piet Oudolf is really one of the most influential landscape designers in the industry. He has also designed Battery Park and The Lurie Garden in Chicago. He designs more for the “Structure is the basis of all planting combinations, but traditional gardening has a lot of dogmas. I prefer to let things go their own way,” Oudolf has said. Plants that sprout far from their original location, for instance, are allowed to thrive rather than being ripped out, which enhances a free-and-easy feeling that some observers might call wild but Oudolf prefers to describe as spontaneity. As he explains, “A garden should be monitored and maintained but also have a balance between control and no control.” Which means you might want to let up on the weeding here and there.
I love the design of the Highline…soft planting that is allowed to really do its own thing. Spill over the garden edges and multiply at its own leisure. The long narrow design is extremely functional and engaging and for devising a unique paving system that gracefully transitions from fully paved surfaces to fully planted areas, or anything in between. The paving concept is linear and is a visual reference to the High Line’s original steel rails, forming long, narrow, parallel planting strips that combine and separate to form narrow or wide planting areas. This paving system is especially effective in introducing plantings in the park visitor’s path of travel, creating an unusual intimacy with the plantings.
Beautiful in a practical way, is the seating on the High Line. Below is an example of a repeated design, in which the floor of the park soars up to become a bench, in this case with a back for added comfort.
There is more than enough seating for the public in many forms. They can use the very structured seating, the lounge chairs, ampitheatre seating or just relax on the grass.
People are constantly coming and going, or stopping to rest in lounge chairs, reading, visiting, soaking up the sun. I doubt that many pay as close attention to the plants as I do, but it’s obvious they do get a lot of attention. The design of the High Line makes this happen by virtue of simple geometry and limited space.
The finished park is a creative, meticulously designed and built, and magnificently planted linear garden that recaptures the sense of place of the abandoned rail line. In a literal sense, it re-creates the former industrial west side, from the Meat Market to the former wilds of western Chelsea, and gives us a beautiful, new garden in the sky, one that has already begun to transform this part of Manhattan.
This really is a hugely successful park, it seems somewhat relaxing and quiet as you stroll through the park with the hum of NYC below you.