The spirit of New York’s High Line is spreading throughout the world lifestyle
New York, a city that shifts between degradation, improvement and astonishment, has renewed and redefined itself once again, becoming an example to follow.
Several projects are testament to this: the new ferry service that connects Manhattan over the Hudson River, or the new parks on the island’s shores. However, the High Line is the project that captures all the attention. This landscaped former rail line in New York was first opened ten years ago, although it was inaugurated in various phases over time, and the crowning moment of the beginning of this endeavour should be celebrated every year as a triumph for the city.
Architect Rem Koolhaas defined ecstasy around New York in his book “Delirium New York”: “If Manhattan is still in search of a theory, then this theory, once identified, should yield a formula for an architecture that is at once ambitious and popular. Manhattan has generated a shameless architecture that has been loved in direct proportion to its defiant lack of self-hatred, respected exactly to the degree that it went too far. Manhattan has consistently inspired in its beholders ecstasy about architecture”.
Ecstasy for the supernatural dimension, the difference in scales, where everything is concentrated and elevated, dwarfing the human being and, at the same time, aggrandising him in his desire to improve.
At that time, New York was still fascinating to first-time visitors, but it had gained in sadness and decay and it was wandering about looking for itself as a city after the loss of its twin towers.
The green conscience of the twenty-first century saved the city from this giving in to the circumstances; one of its oldest infrastructures, an abandoned railway track, was the trigger for the change. Residents around the High Line joined forces and decided to save the rail line that was condemned to abandonment. The city of spectacle yielded to the conservation of a humble scar, creating a path that connected the 20th and 21st centuries.
An international competition facilitated the search for functional and creative ideas. They received 720 proposals from 36 countries and the architectural studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro was the winner, alongside the landscape architect Piet Oudolf.
Today, without doubt, it is one of the projects that had the greatest social and media impact ever undertaken in New York in recent years.
The West Side Line, the abandoned and obsolete elevated train line, was transformed into a suspended pedestrian path with exceptional landscaping that restores the spontaneous and natural vegetation of the city. It has become a high point from which the city is seen from another level. A path replete with fountains, viewpoints, outdoor exhibition spaces, areas that encourage play and spaces that invite meditation and reflection.
“It is a celebration of the sustainability of the city’s structures and infrastructures, a landscape that emerges to understand New York’s architecture from a new dimension. What surprises us most, after all these years, is how New Yorkers and visitors alike have made it their own and enjoy it”, Charles Renbuco, one of the partners of the architecture studio that regenerated the High Line, told Lifestyle.
“It was a learning process. I think that botanical gardens are the key to inspiration and not garden centres. It is important to see the plants in the context of a place. All seasons of the year bring beauty, a changing beauty in which colours and shapes are transformed, as well as our spirit”, explains the landscape designer Piet Oudolf.
However, there are countless similar projects in different cities around the world. For example, the renovation of the Turia garden in Valencia in the late 80s, or Madrid Río opened in 2011. These are also formulas for success.
Moscow has created the “Million Trees” project, planting trees and creating roads and boulevards throughout the city. Tokyo joins these initiatives with the Log Road Daikayama, a commercial garden road created by Shin Ohori of General Design CO. Singapore’s response to the High Line is twenty-four kilometres of interconnected parks along old train routes. In Seoul, the MVRDV architecture studio is currently developing a park on a suspended road in the city, the Skygarden.
Note: This article has been carried out in collaboration with the IE Contemporary Design Trends laboratory, IE Design, with Claudia Taveras, Elizaveta Shavrova, Anurag Phalke and Claudia Tizón.