Great Design – The High Line, NY, USA

The award winning High Line is an elevated linear public park located on Manhattan’s West Side. Spanning 23 blocks, through three iconic neighbourhoods (the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen), the High Line was constructed in the 1930’s to shift freight traffic into the air, removing trains from the streets below. It is this relationship between the High Line and the city which makes it such a successful and iconic piece of landscape architecture. Elevated almost 10 meters above street level, the High Line provides visitors with a unique urban experience. It allows the user to be both a part of the city and removed from it at the same time.

When we visited New York in 2012, BGLA made sure to stop by the High Line – it was a must do on our very short trip to the city. The popularity and sheer volume of people using the park is testament to the robustness and execution of the design. Tourists and locals alike can easily spend a good few hours elevated above the central city streets.

The materials used are a nice reference to the High Line’s industrial past – stretches of steel rail track, corten garden edges and recycled timber are contrasted effectively with the clean new concrete and timber pathways and benches.

With over 210 species included in the design, the planting is perhaps the most powerful aspect of the site. Inspired by the self-seeding landscape that overtook the abandoned rail lines, the garden beds look more like naturally wild meadows, as opposed to a carefully thought out and intended design. Consisting of a combination of both native and exotic species, the gardens include silverbirch and maple trees, coneflowers, foxgloves, geraniums, liatris and a number of grasses and sedges.

We loved the High Line and ended up spending the better part of a morning taking photo after photo of the plants and design details. We would absolutely recommend a visit to the High Line for anyone planning a trip to New York.

Landscape architect: James Corner – Field Operations
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Planting design: Piet Oudolf
Opened to the public: 2009