NYC 2016: Changing High Line pt.2

Spatial structure and views

The scenery and spatial structure of the park has changed a lot compared to the last time I visited it. At first I couldn’t tell exactly what was so different, but then I realized that vegetation has grown so much it is hard to recognize places. Paths are narrower and there is more shadow all over. Tall grass creates isolated spaces for lingering. In some sections, grown trees hide the urban landscape outside of the High Line and you can almost pretend you are somewhere away from the city.

NYC (106).JPGWildness in the city.

The quiet benches on the edges of the park offer good places for people observing. In a way, the life and people are the main attraction of the park. On the other hand, people sitting behind the tall grass are almost like elegant statues.

People that are walking on the High Line are also observed by residents on the neighbouring apartments. Most of the new residential buildings had balconies facing the park. That means that the residents are also being watched by the people strolling in the park. From a Finnish point of view that is quite hard to comprehend – in Finland, privacy is highly valued.

NYC (117) muok.jpgPrivate terraces by the High Line. 

Not that people are the only thing worth observing here. There are several viewing points where you can look at the skyline in the distance and roaring traffic below the High Line. I find it quite interesting that the city itself is seen as a valuable ever-changing landscape, with the traffic noise and all. And since the park flows through the block structure you’ll get to see the insides of the perimeter blocks that remain a mystery when walking in the surrounding streets.

The questions of temporality and conservation

Walking along the High Line I noticed a lot of temporary structures where there were building sites. Sometimes it was hard to tell what was temporary and what was not – beautifully curved canopies turned out to be Zaha Hadid’s designs. This could be a good point to learn in Finland as well – temporary can and should look beautiful. Pedestrians’ safety and orienting should always be the main concern around the building sites. If they are well taken care of, suddenly it doesn’t even matter if there is a construction work going on.

NYC (180) muok2.jpgZaha’s construction shed.

As the environment is in constant change, the whole question of a “ready” or “temporary” seems to become irrelevant. When is the High Line with its surroundings built ready? Does the area lose something of its rough charm if it is doomed ready?

The uniqueness of Chelsea was noticed as it was designated as a Historic District 1970. In 2008, a new Historic District focusing on the industrial history in West Chelsea was approved. It seems that the previously mentioned Zaha Hadid luxury apartment house is rising in that small historic district. Without a doubt, many others are also interested in building there. But every time a new design is erected, a piece of the original landscape disappears. Ultimately, what will there left of the industrial Chelsea and the High Line? At least the locals are worried: there is a community-based organization Save Chelsea that wants to maintain the economic, social and architectural variety in the area. After all, that very history is the base of all the recent development and added value.

– Laura

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