Inspired by the melancholic, “found” beauty of the High Line, where nature has reclaimed a once-vital piece of urban infrastructure, the design aims to re-fit this industrial conveyance into a post-industrial instrument of leisure. By changing the rules of engagement between plant life and pedestrians, our strategy of “agri-tecture” combines organic and building materials into a blend of changing proportions that accommodates the wild, the cultivated, the intimate, and the social. In stark contrast to the speed of Hudson River Park, the singular linear experience of the new High Line landscape is marked by slowness, distraction and an other-worldliness that preserves the strange, wild character of the High Line, yet doesn’t underestimate its intended use and popularity as a new public space. This notion underpins the overall strategy – the invention of a new paving and planting system that allows for varying ratios of hard to soft surface that transition from high use areas (100% hard) to richly vegetated biotopes (100% soft), with a variety of experiential gradients in between.
Our position has always been to try and respect the character of the High Line itself: its singularity and linearity, its straight-forward pragmatism, its emergent properties with wild plant-life – meadows, thickets, vines, mosses, flowers – intermixed with ballast, steel and concrete. Our solution is primarily threefold: first the paving system, built from linear concrete planks with open joints, specially tapered edges and seams that permit intermingling of plant-life with harder materials. Less a pathway and more a combed or furrowed landscape, this intermixing creates a textural effect of immersion, strolling “within” rather than feeling distanced from. The selection and arrangement of grasses and plants further helps to define a wild, dynamic character, distinct from a typical manicured landscape, and representative of the extreme conditions and shallow rooting depth. The second strategy is to slow things down, to promote a sense of duration and of being in another place, where time seems less pressing. Long stairways, meandering pathways, and hidden niches encourage taking one’s time. The third approach involved a careful sense of dimension of scale, minimizing the current tendency to make things bigger and obvious and seeking instead a more subtle gauge of the High Line’s measure. The result is an episodic and varied sequence of public spaces and landscapes set along a simple and consistent line – a line that cuts across some of the most remarkable elevated vistas of Manhattan and the Hudson River.
– James Corner Field Operations, Landscape Architects