A Vista Every 100 Feet: The High Line

The much awaited High Line park in New York’s Meat Packing District and Chelsea turns out to be worth the wait.  It is not completed yet, but has all the necessary features to be considered a success.  But the question is, was the design such a success?

The question is couldn’t any landscape designer made a go of it? It would have taken quite a bit of bad taste to have made the High Line a complete disaster.  It already had plenty of there there. Raised above the crazy congestion, traffic and pedestrians alike, the park offers an immediate break from New York’s messiness.

Every 100 feet or so, there is something to see, somewhere to sit, a picture to be snapped. I wouldn’t say that this necessarily was due to the talents and vision of the winning design firm. Whereas, unlike Las Vegas, where they’ve torn down much of their history to replace it with the faux history offered of older cities, Paris, New York, London, the original elevated train had it’s historical surroundings already in place.

There are the views of the Hudson River, where ships would sail, and unload their wares in the buildings all along the west side of Manhattan. It was through sailing up and down the Hudson (rather than driving along the West Side Highway) did I become aware that many of the buildings along the west side were originally the warehouses where ships would unload. And the elevated train, that was the High Line was how they were able to move things from one building and port to another.

The Competition for the design of the park was fierce. There were 720 entries from 36 countries. A friend of mine was cited as Jury Selection in the list of winners, but unfortunately they misspelled his name, so when you do a Google search, he doesn’t show up.  Here’s to you, Ken Conzelmann.

The Standard Hotel, pictured above, straddles the current entrance to the park, just below 14th Street and the West Side Highway.  Here’s an example of a architecture that was dated even before pen hit paper.  A friend and I were walking through it a few weeks back, after the hotel’s “soft launch”.  The conference room was a makeshift bar, and the outdoor patio was strewn with construction debris.  It seemed like this place was built on a tight budget.  Some of the concrete work was soon poorly executed, you could see where the builders went back with hammer and chisel to shave off the flashing. And the glass balcony walls were not executed with the precision of the Apple Store, just a few blocks up.

Will the park end up functioning as designed?  One thing that was very clear on the day that I visited was that there were plenty of visitors. Some milling about, some getting on, some basking in the sun. Yet it didn’t seem crowded, despite the crowds, despite the gardens, the lounge chairs, the people walking with the gaze askance.

As pictured above, it wasn’t necessary to bring your own picnic blanket or chairs, because there were plenty provided.

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