History and Eco-friendly architecture redefine "Cool"
As a city that's constantly evolving, New York City, "the city that never sleeps" has added another reason for us to be excited. The Highline, which opened on June 8, 2009 has been nothing short of a revelation on how historical preservation and great architecture can turn around an industrial wasteland. By using a decade’s old elevated steel railroad track as a canvas, an architectural masterpiece was born. The imaginative landscaping and creative architecture, creates a unique aesthetic that combines cold industrial steel with the warmth of lush greenery via immaculately designed gardens to create a harmonious balance. This Zen like atmosphere is something the city’s inhabitants can come to appreciate after months of being indoors for the winter.
The Highline was originally 13 miles long and its construction was part of the West Side renovation project for the New York City Railroad. The infrastructure project cost $150 million dollars which in todays rate of inflation would be well past a billion dollars. The elevated railroad system was utilized to bring in supplies directly from the docks into the warehouses and factories, the original line ran from 34th street to Spring street. Unfortunately, due to the rise of the trucking industry and expansion of the interstate highway system, there was no longer a need for the railroad track and it closed in 1980.
In 1999, a small group of activists called the “friends of the highline" led by Joshua and David Hammond campaigned to save what was left of the track, they succeeded when the City of New York gave them $50 million dollars to establish the park. They also had the support of some key power players such as hotel developer Andre Balazs, Phillip Falcone and esteemed fashion designer Diane Von Fursternberg and her husband media mogul Barry Diller. Andre Balazs himself invested heavily in the success of the highline by redesigning an old building and opening the Standard hotel which straddles the Highline. The first section of the park opened on April 10, 2006 by Mayor Bloomberg who presided over the ceremony which marks the beginning of a new chapter in the Highlines history.
The Highline Renaissance
The repurposing effort was led by the renowned landscape architectural firm James Corner Field Operations in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro. They won the design competition that was held that included hundreds of other prestigious firms. The new design incorporated original parts such as the tracks which is still very visible, it serves as a reminder to the parks rich history. This reincarnation of the Highline starts from Gansevoort Street in the very trendy meatpacking district all the way to West 34th street on Manhattans West side which is 1.45 miles.
Upon entering the park one cant help but feel as if they're in a floating garden, nestled in the heart of a robust metropolitan. The Highline is exquisitely juxtaposed against the backdrop of industrial buildings and warehouses, it's this visual play on contradiction that dazzles . The meticulously designed art pieces also compliment the non-linear paths and exotic landscaping that presents an aesthetic that calms the senses. Bleachers with a glass façade overlooking 10th avenue were also built so that park goers can enjoy the New York City past time of people watching.
The parks design incorporates many of the surrounding neighborhoods culture, the modern pieces that you would see from West Chelsea art galleries, to the multi-ethnic vibe that you get from Hells Kitchen. This infusion of the local communities heritage makes the park one of a kind, people seldom realize that they've walked for blocks (streets) on end. There are strategically placed seating areas in varying from lounge chairs and benches throughout the park, you can decide to sit and read a book or get a tan. There are also open areas to have a picnic or if you'd like you can lay down and take a nap. The serene feeling you get in this park is priceless, in a city that's always on the go that in itself is rare.
The parks resurgence has also infused life into the neighboring communities, what was once empty old warehouses have given way to shops and even fashion studios. If you want to go for a drink there's the Biergarten which is located at the Standard Hotel or you can eat at the many restaurants in the meatpacking district. The Whitney museum has already begun construction at the Highline and will be open to the public in 2015. The success of the park has inspired other cities to look at urban renewal as an option, as opposed to demolishing old infrastructure. Although, as James Corner one of the lead architects said, the success of the Highline and the surrounding neighborhoods is unique to that of New York City.