Arch 302: High Line
Location: New York, NY
Instructor: Jason K. Johnson
The High Line is an abandoned elevated ground plane which passes above Manhattan’s Chelsea Meat Packing District. This ground plane is a unique moment of wilderness and disorder, in contrast to the regular grid of the city. However, what ground space the High Line adds it also takes away. What is left in its shadow are dark, untended spaces: parking lots, dumpsters, storage for snow plows and empty eighteen wheelers. Light, air and water need to be re-introduced to these spaces. By revealing parts of the High Line’s underlying structure and choosing moments to weave the two ground planes back together.
The project began with a study of the hydrology of the island of Manhattan; its relationship to, dependence on, and isolation from the adjacent rivers. A series of High Line access points were conceived through the notion of collecting water from adjacent rooftops and filtering it through the structure, into the ground, and back into the Hudson River. This concept was then expanded and further explored to represent a redevelopment scheme for the entire High Line.
The program assigned to this redevelopment was a Cultural Center for the study, practice, and public display of the visual arts. The resulting design is a series of outdoor and semi-outdoor spaces created from the weaving together of the two ground planes and the ensuing water collection.
The site chosen is an abandoned warehouse which runs beneath West 30th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues at the point the High Line turns and terminates. In the end, it is an outdoor gallery, hidden behind the existing walls of the warehouse, a moment of surprise and reveal that could eventually become part of a buffer zone between Chelsea and the (then) planned 2012 Olympic Stadium adjacent to the site.
“Built in the 1930s as an elevated passageway for freight trains, the High Line runs for 1.45 miles, from 34th Street, along the edge of the Hudson River, through West Chelsea’s tree-lined blocks and art galleries, into the heart of the Meat Packing District.”
A series of elevated planes allow for views back to the Hudson River in an area of the city which feels very much removed from its waterfront. This allows for moments of performance art to occur both in front of the backdrop of the city to east and the water to the west. The city and river become observed and the viewer feels both removed and engaged with multiple ground planes.
By opening up portions of the structure to light and air the ground plane below the High Line also becomes activated as a unique landscape of light, shadow, new growth and development. A series of exterior rooms of water and solitude emerge from behind the walls of the existing abandoned warehouse spaces. Artwork, pools of water and trees engage the viewer in a dialogue between the past and future of urban ruin and the new life which can possibly emerge from its decay and rejuvenation.