Case Study Clemson 3

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Name HighLine
Location Manhattan,New York City,NY
Country United States
Office James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Piet Oudolf, Buro Happold
Client New York City government
Completion June 2009
<googlemap version="0.9" lat="40.747907" lon="-74.005537" type="satellite" zoom="14" width="300" height="250">

(A) 40.747907, -74.005537 </googlemap>

Core Question 1: In how far does this project reveal your concept of future landscapes?

This project is a solid example of the possibilities that can occur in landscapes in the future, especially urban landscapes. The future will require a deep redesigning of our decaying urban spaces through new techniques, and this project, The Highline in NYC, shows the success of bringing green to the urban context. It shows that the landscape does not have to only be on the ground plane, but it may also be incorporated on multiple levels. It also is a good example of the combination of both architectural and landscape elements in a design.

Highline Design Video:

Landscape and/or urban context

  • Biogeography, cultural features, overall character, history and dynamics


The High Line is located on Manhattan's West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. Section 1 of the High Line, which opened to the public on June 9, 2009, runs from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street.


The High Line was built in the 1930s, as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. It lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district. No trains have run on the High Line since 1980. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 when the historic structure was under threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park.

The project gained the City's support in 2002. The High Line south of 30th Street was donated to the City by CSX Transportation Inc. in 2005. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line's public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006. The first section, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, is projected to open in June 2009.

Illustration:Map; sketches; short descriptive analyses

High6.jpg High7.jpg

Cultural/social/political context

  • Brief explanation of culture, political economy, legal framework

The High Line runs through three of Manhattan's most dynamic neighborhoods: the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton. When the High Line was built in the 1930s, these neighborhoods were dominated by industrial and transportation uses. Now many of the warehouses and factories have been converted to art galleries, design studios, retailers, restaurants, museums, and residences.

The Meatpacking District

Much of the first section of the High Line is located in the Meatpacking District. Around 1900, the district was home to more than 250 slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.In recent decades, as industrial uses have declined in New York City, the Meatpacking District has seen a resurgence of other uses. Its historic cobblestone streets and low-lying industrial buildings are now home to many restaurants, nightclubs, design and photography studios, and fashion boutiques.

West Chelsea

the north of the Meatpacking District is the neighborhood of West Chelsea, where the majority of the High Line is located. West Chelsea shares the industrial past of the Meatpacking District, with large factories and warehouses lining its streets and avenues. West Chelsea is now home to the world’s largest concentration of art galleries.

Clinton / Hell's Kitchen

The High Line’s northernmost section runs through the southern section of the Clinton / Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Much of this neighborhood was part of the 2005 Hudson Yards Rezoning, which was meant to encourage large-scale development and the improvement of transportation infrastructure. In the next decade or so, this neighborhood will likely undergo significant changes to its built environment.

Illustration:Bullet points, image, background notes

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

  • What are the main structural features?
  • How has it been shaped? Were there any critical decisions?

Before it was turned into a park, the line was a riveted steel elevated structure with wild grasses, plants, shrubs, and rugged trees that grew along most of the route. Currently the park's attractions include naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and new, often unexpected views of the city and the Hudson River. Pebble-dash concrete walkways unify the trail, which swells and constricts, swinging from side to side, and divides into concrete tines that meld the hardscape with the planting embedded in railroad gravel mulch. Stretches of track and ties recall the High Line's former use. Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers.

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Analysis of program/function

  • What are the main functional characteristics?
  • How have they been expressed or incorporated?

Highline park functions as a platform for taking in the sights of lower and midtown Manhattan, auspiciously relying on the local architecture. Imagine it as a stroll through a sculpture garden, but the sculptures are the size of buildings. In a sense it is the most viscerally dual-purpose, built landscape that exist in New York City. On the one hand it is a highly design plinth for the viewing of NYC architecture. On the other, it is a lowly, industrial structure, re-invisioned as a metaphor for a car-less NYC.

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Analysis of design/planning process

  • How was the area/project/plan formulated and implemented?
  • Were there any important consultations/collaborations?

The High Line was originally constructed in the 1930s, to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan's streets and has since been converted to be a mile-and-a-half-long elevated park, running through the West Side neighborhoods of the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Clinton/Hell's Kitchen. It features an integrated landscape, designed by landscape, combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings. Fixed and movable seating, lighting, and special features are also included in the park. Access points from street level will be located every two to three blocks. Many of these access points will include elevators, and all will include stairs.

The construction process of the highline was broken into 3 phases. The first phase is to remove all existing surface material on the structure, including gravel ballast, soil, debris and a layer of concrete, down to the steel and concrete structure. After removals, repairs to the steel and concrete are made, new drainage and waterproofing installed, and all steel surfaces of the High Line structure are sandblasted to remove the original lead paint. The final phase in the High Line's transition to a public park was the construction of the park landscape.

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Analysis of use/users

  • How is the area/project/plan used and by whom?
  • Is the use changing? Are there any issues?

The highline has created an alternative space for people to gather and socialize and serve the many functions of a park most importantly as a main transportation transect across the city. This style and approach to restoring and reviving abandoned urban infrastructure allows for a new solution for cities and urban spaces that are declining. It is a new approach for the future of cities and is an example that brings green to cities.

Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Core Question 2: What is the role of landscape architecture in this project?

The highline is a really a significant project that represents the landscape urbanism movement done by James Corner that is trying to achieve a mix both architecture and landscape architecture. It is culturally trying to give the people and visitors of New York an attractive, usable and practical green space and environmental project that restores brown field and unused and outdated infrastructure. It is an innovative use of adding green to a city which is an exemplary example of a future landscape because it supports the positive reclaiming of abandoned urban environments and succeeds in promoting a new habitable space that is overwhelmingly needed in many urban areas. The Highline is a new landscape typology, making it not purely architecture and not purely landscape which is critical in allowing for re-engineering of the old use in the urban framework of a city. The site is not only aesthetically powerful but it is ecologically sound, and is preserving the cultural history of the highline of NYC.

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