One of the things I love about New York is that every trip can be completely different (she says, having been twice!). This is partly due to the spectacular diversity of the city, and partly because new things are aways popping up… like the High Line – new since my last visit, and an absolute highlight of this one.
Until 1999, the High Line was a decrepit freight railway line, dating from the 1930s and disused since the 1980s. Thanks to Joshua David, Robert Hammond and the Friends of the High Line, it’s now a ‘park in the sky’ offering a unique perspective on New York City. Usually viewed from street level looking up, or from the top of the Empire State Building looking down – the High Line allows you to look right through the city, from a completely new vantage point. A diversity of viewing platforms provide a combination of snatched vistas between buildings and the chance to sit and watch the yellow taxis below like a bird on a wire.
It’s a brilliant idea, but it’s also brilliantly executed, so all credit to the design team; landscape architects James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro as well as the community of High Line supporters they worked with to make it happen.
Instead of sticking to a successful formula and repeating it along the track, the High Line constantly reinvents itself as you walk its length. Every section is different. From paving slabs that rise from the ground and turn into benches to sun loungers on castors that slide along the rails, from tables and chairs that turn picnic-ers with tablecloths into diners in an imaginary restaurant to a lawn surrounded by ice cream stands; there is a treat around every corner.
And that’s not to mention the art. It is completely embedded into the fabric of the High Line, so it feels very much part of the experience. Spencer Finch’s ‘The River That Flows Both Ways’ is great example. It’s a study of the Hudson River with a pane of glass representing every colour that Finch photographed – he took a picture every minute for 700 minutes – all housed in a brick structure that looks as if it’s always been there. Perhaps it has.
The High Line is a breath of fresh air running through the chaos of the city, a respite, a chance to take a breath, to renew your spirit and then head back down in amongst it and do it all again. I can’t wait to come back and see section three.
Further reading for the especially geeky: