I recently took a trip by train into New York, a visual and sensory experience in itself, rolling through ripped back sides (thanks Iggy), discarded materials, trash, broken and forgotten things...the ride punctuated by a long tunnel / void, then arrival into the complex system composed of layers, grids, concrete, systems, people and buildings - the city.
Engagement and participation into the city / system is demanded. The sensory experience is riddled with contrasts in society / culture, trash versus Art, buildings versus Architecture, noise versus nature, the random and the planned, all contributing to the energy inherent in the city.
While in NYC, I had the opportunity to experience the Highline, a highly successful architectural and landscape project which repurposes an abandoned elevated rail line, transforming it into a linear park, 1.45 miles long. The project was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Field Operations.
The success of the Highline lies in the artful integration of landscape and hardscape elements on the elevated path and in the removal of conflict with other man-made systems. Memory / remnants of past systems (rails) remain, giving the impression that nature has triumphed over the man made system over a period of time. On the Highline, the visitor is elevated above the chaos / energy of the city below.
New architecture is appearing along the new elevated spine; the activity and interest that the Highline promotes is a "generator".
The Highline allows the visitor to relax, to suspend the effort required to participate in city systems, to float instead at a level where nature has reasserted itself in the form of plants, water and people...an area between...both in the city and above. This represents a change in the way the city can be experienced. The effect is surreal in that it is an artificial insertion of nature between the street level of the city and the sky. The calming effect of the Highline is emphasized because of its "floating" nature.
The purpose of a park is to offer calm or an "oasis" within the energy of the city. Central Park is a plan-centric notion of borders between the "man made" (Olmstead) natural with the man made (city). The Highline linear park is a sectional notion offering calm within the city by responding to the inherent vertical layers of the system, and the nature of the conflicts which may be eliminated by separating these levels.
I found the Highline to be a wonderful experience, promoting calm while celebrating the contrasts and conflicts inherent within the complexity of the city. The Highline is worth a visit next time you are in New York