23rd June 2017

Walking the High Line

The High Line is an elevated linear park established on a former meatpacking railway running through Chelsea and Greenwich Village in New York City. Though it was initially popular with young, fashionable urbanites it has now developed a reputation as a bit of a tourist trap, getting very congested at weekends. It has been criticised by some (notably Jeremiah Moss, author of Vanishing New York) for gentrifying the meatpacking district. Designer brands have moved in where former light industry businesses existed. The High Line is perhaps becoming Manhattan’s second most famous park only after the central behemoth designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1858.

In this initial foray I attempted to capture the experience of a typical visitor. These photos show the ‘cleaned up’ post-industrial aesthetic that characterises the park and the approach of many contemporary urban planners. I hope to revisit the site in a few days to investigate the local effects of the High Line by speaking to nearby business owners, but felt my initial visit should focus on understanding the user experience, and how this might translate to the disused Kenwood embankments in South Side Chicago.

A typical view. Stanchions added around plantings give the impression of a museum exhibit.

Inaccessible spur of the track with 'wild' plantings by Piet Oudolf.

Urban theatre over 10th avenue. About 50% of people were using mobile phones.

Old meets new: high-rise luxury apartments adjoining old condominiums.

Apartment construction at the northeast end of the park is significantly changing the surrounding typology.