June 23, 2009
Yet Another High Line Blog
After all the anticipation and hype, our executive editor finally gets to experience the city’s new elevated park in person.
I finally went up on the High Line this afternoon. As a writer, it was a slightly frustrating experience, because just about everything that’s been written about it has been for the most part correct. It is exhilarating. It is a unique perspective. The designers (James Corner Field Operations, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro) have used admirable restraint. But the park merely looks wild and un-designed. It is very much a designed experience and its success lies in fact that we don’t feel the strain of all this calculated restraint.
I went at lunch and the park was pleasantly populated, with a critical mass of people that made the experience both communal and natural. When it’s teeming with visitors, as it will surely be on weekends in good weather, it won’t be as much fun. This is not like Central Park, but finite space and an overflow of strollers will spoil the adventure. Over time, however, the novelty will wear off, and the park’s use will become established through times of day, seasons, and weather patterns. Like any public space, it will acquire a personality based in part on those uses. It will have a summer personality (when no one but tourists walk it), a spring personality (when crowds flock to it at the first hint of warm weather). And that personality will change and evolve. It will be tested in inclement weather. In fact, I look forward to walking the High Line in a blizzard (if it’s permitted).
Right now, the surrounding neighborhood is an odd and endearing mix of new and old. You’d almost like to freeze it in place, because over time it’s almost certain the ragged urban edges are likely to get smoothed over. This is probably inevitable. The High Line is both a relic of the past and a gentrifying shaper of the future. Still, you can’t beat the view.