Image credit: Jonathan Lukes
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For the renewal of the New York High Line, an international design competition was launched in 2003, leading to an exhibition of 720 proposals at Grand Central Terminal. The services of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro were retained for the construction, along with specialists in engineering, horticulture, security, maintenance, and public art. Groundbreaking took place in April 2006 with the lifting of the first rail. Over the next 8 years, work was pursued on the various sections of the park. Along with the practical work of cleaning, preparing, and securing each part of the structure during construction, the High Line has become a model for the productive dialogue that can occur between landscape, history, art, architecture, and design in an urban neighbourhood – not just at the completion of a project, but throughout the entire process.
The West Side line of the New York Central Railroad was long known as the lifeline of New York since much of the city depended on the transportation of milk, poultry, meat, and other express merchandise along this, the only all-rail freight line on Manhattan Island. The street-level tracks authorized in 1847 were, however, a terrible liability. Over the next 80 years, so many accidents occurred that men known as the West Side Cowboys rode on horseback ahead of the trains, waving red flags. Ironically, essential parts of the ‘lifeline’ became deadly: 10th Avenue, for instance, was nicknamed ‘Death Avenue’.
In 1929, the city, the railroad company, and the State of New York agreed to a plan that would ultimately cost over $150 million dollars, the equivalent of approximately 2 billion today. The West Side Improvement Project, incorporating the High Line, an elevated structure with at least 14-foot clearance, eliminated 105 ground-level railroad crossings. The 13-mile-long line, running from 34th Street to the newly constructed St. John’s Park Freight Terminal, connected directly to factories and warehouses built specifically for sidetrack service, allowing trains to roll right into them.
At the time of the terminal’s dedication on June 28th, 1934, the project represented one of the greatest endeavours ever undertaken by joint public and private interests in Manhattan. Just to secure the right of way through the industrial district involved about 350 separate deals across 60 city blocks. In addition to improving street safety and avoiding trucking costs for businesses located along the West Side line, the project added 32 acres to Riverside Park with the coverage of the railway north of 72nd Street.
The author is an artist, writer, and instructional designer with an overactive imagination and too little time. Ceci en est un exemple...
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