Construction Bulletin: The High Line

January 6, 2014

blog_highline_pic2.pngAs Section 1 and Section 2 of the High Line continue to attract throngs of visitors—five million during the past year—Section 3 is under construction. This is the stretch where the High Line no longer runs parallel to Tenth Avenue but turns west to follow the southern perimeter of Hudson Rail Yards before parallelling Twelfth Avenue and the Hudson River for four blocks, at which point it curves east at 34th Street for a half a block as it gradually dips down to its at-grade terminus.

To get an idea of what to expect when Section 3 opens to the public the Foundation for Landscape Studies went to see landscape architect James Conner of Field Operations, the head of the firm responsible for designing and overseeing the building of the entire High Line in collaboration with the architectural firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Sketching in words and pictures the appearance of Section 3, he began, “We have had to take into account the fact that we have an entirely different set of parameters in Section 3 than in Section 1 and Section 2. There are less existing assets that you can leverage but less adjacencies than you find in Chelsea and the meatpacking district where we had a lot of bricolage—balconies, fire stairs, bricks, collections of ad hoc stuff—to play off of. The area here has assets such as the beautiful sunsets over the Hudson, but the scale is entirely different. We call the place where Section 3 begins at 30th Street the Crossroads.”

blog_highline_pic1a.pngExplaining how the design negotiates this nexus of change, Corner continued, “This is a major entrance where people will be deciding in which direction they are going to walk: up to the Hudson Yards Plaza, which is a few feet above the High Line; south into Section 2; west as they enter Section 3; or along the spur that once delivered mail to old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue across from Penn Station. Since we are anticipating congestion at this point, there will be an extended platform space with wooden stair-step seating.”

Descriptively moving west, Corner said, “Beyond the Crossroads is the Track Walk where we will stabilize the ties and add gravel so that you can actually walk along the old rails as well as on either side of them. After that you come to the Eleventh Avenue Bridge, which is a raised area. Here we have pushed the pathways all the way to the edge on either side to create a kind of catwalk experience. This is where there will be rows of continuous seating so that people can sit and look out at the fabulous views of the river and the city. Just beyond this point we are cutting away the promenade planking in order to expose the beams beneath. This makes it possible for people to see the High Line as a piece of industrial infrastructure. We are covering the exposed beams with a rubberized material so that this will become a play space, a little like a maze.”

As he continued to spell out the plan for Section 3, Corner described an interim landscape, where there will be simple gravel paths alongside a stretch of unobtrusively fenced-off existing rail-bed. “This is a temporary walk,” he remarked. After the supporting concrete piers and iron braces beneath have been repaired and renewed—the most expensive part of the budget by the way—this part of the promenade will be finished at the same design level as the rest of the High Line. However, the final segment where the tracks curve back around to the east will be left as it now is, a piece of industrial poetics to remind people of what was there in the beginning. The rotting railroad ties will be repaired and the old ballast stabilized so that it is safe to walk on the track, but there will be no new planting, only spontaneous vegetation. Here one will see nature’s own dynamic at work in a continually evolving tapestry of plant life, a memory and continuation of the High Line as it was in its pre-park wildness.”   

The construction of the current phase of Section 3 is slated to be completed in spring 2014. At that time visitors will be able to walk the High Line for its entire one-and-a-half mile length. For now, you can visit our Photo Blog to see what’s in store.