Reclaiming the High Line

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Keller Easterling, architect
Casey Jones, architect

Major Funder

New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency

In collaboration with Friends of the High Line, the Design Trust conducted a comprehensive planning study and created strategies for the reuse of the elevated High Line railway track, a neglected landmark on Manhattan's West Side. The Design Trust fellows investigated the High Line's urban context, explored its design implications, and proposed feasible reuse alternatives for the structure, documented in the publication Reclaiming the High Line. Due in part to this publication, transformation of the High Line into a pedestrian walkway and linear park is now all but assured.

The project was selected based on its urban and aesthetic merits, its extraordinary value to the neighborhood, and its universal significance as a precedent for the rehabilitation of disused infrastructure. The fellows focused on programming implications and processes, and not on the development of a specific design for the reuse of the High Line. They analyzed existing design work for the High Line and existing models for reuse, most notably Paris' Promenade Plantée, in order to support reuse and preservation initiatives and to clarify both development possibilities and vulnerabilities.

Design Trust fellow Casey Jones spent 12 months meeting with community groups, development experts and design professionals to evaluate the feasibility of reuse alternatives, including transportation, commercial, arts-oriented and open-space scenarios, as well as demolition. He also studied the High Line's history and physical conditions, local zoning, current land use and community needs.

This discovery process laid the groundwork for Reclaiming the High Line, which advocates a unified, progressive design response, reflecting the original vision of the High Line as a vital component of the "City of Tomorrow." It also proposes an inclusive planning approach that considers the needs of community members, business and property owners, and the State and City. The study provides specific recommendations for each of the neighborhoods that the High Line intersects.

A second fellowship was awarded to architect/writer Keller Easterling, an assistant professor of architecture at Yale University. Easterling created a website, The High Line — Plotting NYC, comprising four speculative environments for the High Line. The user can experience the High Line from the perspective of a developer, an animal, a tourist, and a partygoer. Not limited to attainable possibilities, its purely conjectural environments provide a counterpoint to the fact-based study.

© 2012 Design Trust for Public Space, 40 Worth Street, Suite 603, New York NY 10013  212.695.2432