Thursday, September 20, 2012

High Line Park

Whilst in new York a couple of weeks ago I managed to visit a quite unique park which exceeded all my expectations. A city centre park constructed on a derelict railway line sounds well intentioned and very 'green' but hardly spectacular. The real thing kept me walking and camera clicking for a couple of hours! This was originally an elevated freight rail line built in the 1930's and linking various warehouse and factories. The last train ran with a load of frozen turkeys in 1980 and the line then became derelict. The Friends of the High Line Park was established in 1999, proposing use of the area for a linear park similar to the Promenade Plantee in Paris. After ten years of planning, fund-raising and construction, the initial phase was opened in 2009. A New York landscape architect was used with input from the well known Piet Oudolf of the Netherlands, for the planting. More information on the Friends of the High Line Park here

The High Line as it was (internet pic)
Looking up from road level to the High Line Park
The park extends to 2.4km (1.5 miles), amazingly with many twists and turns which give variety and interest. At some points, the park passes through old buildings and in the shade there are small food outlets and buskers. The landscape is of the highest quality with beautiful paving and well designed street furniture. Sculpture and other artwork sits comfortably in the landscape. At one point, there are permanent sun loungers and throughout, small viewing decks. Punctuating the site, sections of the old railway lines have been preserved and integrated into the landscape, reminding us of the park's heritage.

Beautiful landscape detail

The old railway lines skillfully integrated into new planting
One of many seating areas, this overlooking the Hudson river.

Ribbons of wetland planting
An intimate seating area

One of the many twists in the line of the park - who knows how the trains negotiated this!

Decking, trees and timber benches this time
One of the few areas of grass but well maintained and a lush green sward

Sun loungers - in the early morning shade!

Planting varies between small woodlands with trees overhanging a central path, through to broad swathes of prairie planting, ribbons of wetland planting and some shady groundcover under elevated walkways. There are familiar plants but also many unusual species giving lots of year round interest. Over 200 species have been used including many North American natives but not exclusively so. This is no second-rate landscape but a beautifully maintained and well used park. On the busy weekday I visited, there were many users, plus numerous hard-working staff and volunteers, sympathetically maintaining this landscape. (No hedge trimmer hacking here!)

Rudbeckias in this typical prairie planting

Coreopsis and grasses
Colourful Asclepias
More lush planting - can't remember what this was!

Aesculus californica - I think.

Woodland walk

Shady groundcover under the decking and again the reminder of the railways

The end of the line or rather the park and the next stage of the park renovation.
The founders of this park will be speaking at a symposium in London in October with the possibility of a similar new open space in London. Check out information on the High Line Symposium.


  1. Thanks for the link! I've read about this regeneration before and they've done a fantastic job converting it to a great contemporary, green space.

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