The High Line by James Corner Field Operations
and Diller Scofidio + Renfro



Section 1 of the High Line, a 1.5 mile long park on an abandoned elevated railway, opened earlier this week in New York. Update 26/03/11: section two of the High Line has opened. Update: this project is included in Dezeen Book of Ideas, which is on sale now for £12.


The winning proposal for a competition in 2004, the design is a redevelopment of an abandoned, elevated freight-railway that spans 22 blocks through the west side of Manhattan.


The High Line is designed by landscape designers James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Photographs are by Iwan Baan.


Here's text from James Corner Field Operations:


James Corner Field Operations led the winning design team for the 2004 international competition in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Piet Oudolf  and many other expert specialists for the High Line, an unusual 1.45 mile long, abandoned elevated railway that spans 22 city blocks in between and through buildings and along the west side of Manhattan.


As the lead designer of the High Line, James Corner Field Operations has led all aspects of the project including design (from concept through construction), project management and coordination and construction administration.


Inspired by the melancholic, found beauty of the High Line, where nature has reclaimed a once-vital piece of urban infrastructure, the design team aims to refit 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 hyper-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 public space.


This notion underpins the overall strategy the invention of a new paving and planting system that allows for various 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.


Posted on Monday June 15th 2009 at 12:09 am by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • mcmlxix

    I remember seeing the proposed designs a couple of years ago. Would I have made some different design and use decisions? Sure, but looks like this project will be a significant asset to public space on Manhattan’s west side.

  • andy

    I like this project. Wish I were near NCY to check it out up close.

  • this type of project could be a beginning of something new world wide….wonderful concept and execution!!

  • m

    more photos please :)

  • münte

    i loved this since i´ve seen the competition entry in 2005(?). well done !

  • Martin

    “this type of project could be a beginning of something new world wide….wonderful concept and execution!!”

    I’m sure something like this was done in Paris in the 90’s, and in the uk we have a proud tradition of closing productive railway lines to ‘save money’, converting them into linear parks/cycle routes and then once they’re established proposing to turn them into railways again.

  • Beautiful. Yet another reason to get back to NYC ASAP …

  • Aaron

    Beautiful — although I was rather fond of the turn-it-into-the-world’s-longest-swimming-pool proposal.

    The Paris version – the Promenade Plantée – is quite different in feel/execution.ée

  • R

    A very nice use of a discarded artifact and also well executed. I like that they kept the design somewhat rough, which is fitting for the original high line.

  • teabag

    this is amazing… it!!!!!!! can’t wait to check it out…..looks exactly like the renders i saw at moma a few years ago….

  • Prof. Z

    Aaron i have the same idea , so visit Paris too , city of green ? or may be see some vertical vertical walls around the world by Patrick Blanc.

  • dw

    went there yesterday.
    design is very nice and project is also interesting.
    the only thing is, which designers cannot solve, that it might be way better if the programs of adjacent buildings are developed and they can be some how connected to highline.
    for now, there is nothing. no other reason to be there except the fact it just opened.

  • glue

    I like this very much. There are a lot more pictures on their website. Including a lot about the abandoned period. It looks wonderful.

  • would like to hear from anyone who has been to the highline before this was built… what do they think?

  • R

    @dw> Interesting point you mention. Do you see possibilities for adjacent buildings to make connections to the highline or might there be room to create a sort of small parasite-like objects adjacent or on top of the highline? (Maybe even use the original tracks in the design for movable functions.) The original construction was designed for heavy full trains, but it was probably also overdimensioned, so there might be possibilities to add things. Otherwise the interest for it could indeed decline once the new-ness is gone, which would be a shame.

  • I remember reading about it before they completely rebuilt it. It was not accessible to the general public, but many photographers sneaked up to the elevated platform and took pictures of the untouched sanctuary.

  • windbag

    the best solution for the city would have been to tear it down altogether as the idea of elevated railway always rapresents a scar to the city texture.
    the project is nicely done though.

  • zee

    fantastc concept.

    This could surely be start of something new for megacities and cities across the world especially ones with a great skyline and scenery.

    To expand this concept further, there could be an elevated ring-walk [like a ring road] on the outskirts of a city centre [ie downtown]

  • booh

    I’m looking forward to seeing the plants fill out the paving, I think the overhead shots look so sparse now! I can’t wait to see it in the future!

  • Pony the Trap

    Doesn’t seem to many skatestoppers – those benches are a prime target for the naughty little tykes on their boarderscootywaggibits.

  • amsam

    @R & DW– rest easy– the Highline is in my neighborhood and there is so little pleasant public space relative to the population that there’s no chance it will become unused after the honeymoon wears off.
    A number of buildings straddle or abut the highline, they are negotiating agreements with the HL to add entrances/services from their buildings. I think the idea is that where businesses profit from adjoining the HL, their profit will help maintain the park–
    @windbag– I’m glad not everybody plays by your rules, friend. what a boring world we’d live in.

  • J*

    more on “la coulee verte” :

  • R

    @amsam> Thanks. Nice to hear it has good prospects.
    @windbag> Scars – if you insist on calling it that – form a city as much as all other artifacts. It is part of and has influenced the cities history. Simply removing the physical presence would negate this.

  • J

    @ —> would like to hear from anyone who has been to the highline before this was built… what do they think?

    A friend and I managed to sneak up on the HL in the summer of 2005.
    Walking along that elevated abandoned stretch in the searing heat of a New York summer was certainly an experience – strangely voyeuristic – walking silently above the city whilst passing through derelict trains stations with fully functioning turnstiles.
    I was always slightly apprehensive about the winning design and from the initial renders and plans. I felt that the preconceived “dirtiness” that the scheme was aiming for, seemed only like a poor yet landscaped reproduction of what the skyline had become – only without the sense of discovery and exhilaration, that one could have experienced by breaking in.

    The built scheme is another thing though, the transition between plant and pedestrian areas seems much more subtle then I envisioned, it would be great if locals could use areas as allotments to grow their own vegetables, allowing people who use the HL to help in its continued cultivation.

    Looking forward to going back, although I am secretly hoping that in another 5o years the plants will reclaim the HL once more, forcing it to be closed and trespassed upon once more.

  • Zgrzebniok

    This is nice :)

  • simo

    a really nice urban project, to renovate existing urban structures to renovate the whole city, a very good project, thought in the mood of NY!

  • Joe

    Great. AND reusing is always better than recycling, although I doubt they would even have tried to recycle this material had it been taken down. I wonder how long it will last though.

  • j

    Looks like an overgrown mess. I don’t get it. If I had my yard looking like that, my home owners association would be on my case to weed and trim.

  • swish

  • I like this. It makes sense

  • Joe

    i wish i was in new york, first they have central park in the middle of a city full of skyscraper, and now this! not fair!

  • Holy Cats that looks great! Great job to everyone involved in making this project a reality. Especially Hong.

  • pk

    im sure james corner would love being called a ‘landscape designer’ – might want to change that.

  • a really nice urban project, to renovate existing urban structures to renovate the whole city, a very good project, thought in the mood of NY!

  • Ashu

    Good to see high line again, a section of high line in the last image showing steel bridge connecting two buildings was my site for design studio at columbia university…it reminds me of constant visits i made… truly, it provides an efficient public space to the city…