The High Line: Adaptive Reuse on a Grand Scale

May 26, 2009
On The Road Beijing – Subway
May 28, 2009

The High Line: Adaptive Reuse on a Grand Scale

the_beginning_of_the_high_lineThe “High Line” is an abandoned section of elevated freight railroad track that runs along the West Side of Manhattan. It is about a mile and a half long, has been unused since 1980 and is in a state of disrepair. It is structurally sound and covered with wild grass and plant life.

Fans of musical theatre will recall the high line as one of the sets for West Side Story. The revival, currently running on Broadway is produced by my friend Roy Miller. I often digress…

The comments about disrepair and wild plant life are changing. This huge and cool industrial artifact are being converted into public park space. I feel like I have been following this story for many, many years, but the information I find seems to truncate the story. I know there have been several, maybe many design competitions to rethink the idea of an urban park.

I know this corner in the Meatpacking District on Manhattan well. I have been walking by for many years. I loved the Meatpacking District and its industrial grit and elegance since before it became fashionable and trendy. There is now an Apple Store about 2 blocks from this corner. Times and neighborhoods do change.

morimoto-ando-manhattanThe High Line also runs through The Chelsea Market. Another great example of the adaptive reuse of an old Nabisco Bakery and distribution center. Chelsea Market will have to be another post, but the interior is amazing. I recall standing in the space and thinking that the architect/designer must have stood there with the workers jack hammering and directing their every move. I have since read that this was exactly the case.

Friends of the High Line, are a community based group that have been leading the charge to reuse this structure, rather than destroy it or watch it waste away. Their website is due to updated tomorrow, right now a lot of information is down. Not their blog.

high_line_new_york_cityThis corner now looks completely different. The new design that this illustration depicts is nearly complete or complete and waiting to be unveiled in June. Inhabitant has an excellent post on the new design.

But they do not cover every detail.

Inhabitant does not really cover the public art, and the collaboration between architects, designers, artists and the community that must have occurred. This type of collaboration is never easy. Managing tastes and expectations. managing egos. Especially managing creative egos and subjective opinions.

finchThe Friends of the High Line Blog had an interesting piece last week about the installation of a public art piece by Spencer Finch. I love the stark contrast between the colors and the newness of the art contrasting with the harshness of the rusted industrial frame.

I hope this is not the only similar example of old and new, or other stark contrasts. These types of juxtapositions make design interesting to me.

I am looking forward to exploring The High Line and seeing how these different visions come together. Of course, we will not be there the first weekend, or likely the first month.

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