My son Billy and I visited the High Line in New York City for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been dilatory in getting photos up. We started after sitting at outdoor seats for a while watching people enter and leave the new Whitney Museum, designed by Renzo Piano and now open at the southern end of the pathbreaking new urban park.
The idea is marvelous, of course, using an abandoned elevated rail path through the once hardscrabble architecture of the West Side and a story above its streets. Today, the park has increased local property values and the proximity of the High Line (and its sky rights) has been invaded by new modern architecture, mostly regrettable (but I repeat myself). Fans of the urban greenscape will marvel at the variety of plant life; art fans will stop and gawk at some of the art plopped along the way. Urbanists will revel in the persistence of the architecture’s obtrusiveness, whatever they may feel about its style.
It has been said that the High Line represents the apogee of Landscape Urbanism. If so, then Landscape Urbanism – a nebulous concept to begin with – certainly will never achieve the success of its rival, the New Urbanism. Reviving the principles of city, town and village design that once created great places throughout what NU’ers call the “transect” (the scale of the land’s human density) will never be displaced by a concept of urbanism that relies on substituting greenery for hardscape so long as the value of urban space continues to skyrocket. Landscape Urbanism probably reached its apogee with the creation of Central Park. Even with the High Line, LU is bound to head downward from here on out.
I wanted to visit the High Line at dusk but we were too early, and I wanted to traipse the entire way to its conclusion, but our time was limited. My thought, as we turned back toward the new museum and the High Line exit, was “Is this all it is?”
No, I missed out on a lot of it this time, but there will be next time, and maybe at dusk so that we – perhaps I should say I – can indulge my inner Peeping Tom by gaping at the human comedy behind the windows that look at the park from its edgy edges. And I’m sure that the second half of the High Line will thrill me even more than the first half did. That may not be a high bar, but there you have it, and here are some photos: