Four Finalist Teams Present Design Proposals For High Line Elevated Rail Structure

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Four Finalist Teams Present Design Proposals For High Line Elevated Rail Structure


4 Teams 4 Visions on view at Center for Architecture July 16 – August 14

New York, NY— 4 Teams 4 Visions, an exhibition of visionary design proposals by four finalist teams seeking to create a master plan for the High Line elevated rail structure, has opened to the public at AIA New York Chapter’s Center for Architecture. It will remain on view through Saturday, August 14. Admission is free.

"These design approaches show why the High Line will be this generation’s Central Park," said Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line (FHL), the non-profit organization working to reuse the 1.5-mile-long High Line as public open space. "Here we have some of the design world’s greatest minds thinking about new ways to explore open space and architecture and how it relates to the fabric of the city. The design approaches lay out a range of exciting futures for the High Line, and at the same time they demonstrate to cities around the globe new ways to reclaim post-industrial sites to meet modern urban needs."

Each team is led by an architecture firm, a landscape architecture firm, or multiple firms joined in collaborative leadership. Below, team leads and principal consultants, in alphabetical order. (Full team listings are available in the supplemental "Team List" document.)

• Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold
• Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, and studio MDA
• Steven Holl Architects with Hargreaves Associates and HNTB
• TerraGRAM: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates with D.I.R.T. Studio and Beyer Blinder Belle

Culmination of Five-Year Initiative
The exhibition marks the latest and most exciting stage in a five-year campaign to open the High Line to the public through federal “rails-to-trails” legislation. The City of New York endorsed the project in December 2002 and has since been working with FHL to create a public open space on the High Line and provide a vital pedestrian link between the Meat Packing District, West Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen/Hudson Yards.

"The Bloomberg administration is committed to transforming the High Line into a unique and accessible elevated public open space. This is an irreplaceable opportunity which will become one of the most important things we will do for future generations in New York City," said Amanda M. Burden, Chair of the City Planning Commission. "The team we choose must be of a caliber that matches that important task. Fortunately, we are selecting from among the finest minds in architecture and landscape design, whose team submissions demonstrate the creative vision necessary for this project. I am thrilled to be taking part in selecting these talented finalists."

4 Teams 4 Visions Leads to Team Selection
The exhibited work in 4 Teams 4 Visions includes each team’s approach to the following issues, visually depicted on six presentation panels:

• A vision for the High Line as a whole
• Access systems (stairs and elevators) that reflect ADA standards
• Spaces underneath the High Line at street crossings
• The landscape atop the High Line
• Sustainability and cultivation of urban ecologies
• Art, cultural, and educational programming opportunities
• Interaction with existing and new construction adjacent to and/or underneath the Line
• Lighting, safety, and maintenance

The presentations were created for the final stage of a design team selection process jointly administered by FHL and the City of New York. The team selection process began in March 2004, when 52 teams applied for consideration. A short-list of seven teams was identified and received a two-stage Request for Proposals (RFP). The short-list was narrowed to four finalists after the first stage of the RFP. The work on display in 4 Teams 4 Visions represents the responses of the four finalists to the second stage of the RFP. It will inform the ultimate selection, later this summer, of a team to create the High Line master plan.

Design Approaches—Not Final Plans
"It’s important to note that the visions on display are not final proposals but design approaches," said FHL’s Hammond. "They show us the directions each team would take if selected, but master plan itself will be developed only after a team is selected, and there will be numerous opportunities for the public to play a role." Anyone who wishes to be invited to participate in the master planning process should subscribe to FHL’s E-Mail Newsletter at

The High Line master plan is expected to be complete by Spring 2005, followed by design of the first construction stage of the High Line project.

A Multi-Stage Design Process: Master Plan follows Ideas Competition
The design team selection process comes one year after Designing the High Line, FHL’s open ideas competition, which attracted 720 entries from 36 countries and included an exhibition at Grand Central Terminal.

"The ideas competition was about catalyzing original, innovative ideas, but the ideas didn’t have to be buildable or economically rational," said Hammond. "The proposals on display at 4 Teams 4 Visions, however, show us how pioneering design concepts for this amazing structure can actually be built in the real world of New York City’s far West Side."

The High Line Story
The High Line was built in the 1930s as part of the West Side Improvement Project, one of New York City's largest investments in transportation infrastructure. No trains have run on the structure since 1980. In 1999, neighborhood residents founded Friends of the High Line with the mission of converting the structure to an elevated public space—a greenway or promenade. In December 2002, the City of New York took the first step in converting the High Line to a public walkway through federal rails-to-trails legislation.

Related Initiatives
The High Line links three far West Side neighborhoods, all of which are the focus of important City initiatives. At the southern end of the Line, the City established the Gansevoort Market Historic District in Fall 2003, helping to preserve the unique neighborhood character of this vibrant area. In West Chelsea, the City is proposing a rezoning that would include measures intended to facilitate reuse of the High Line, retain the existing concentration of art institutions and galleries, and create new opportunities for affordable- and market-rate housing. In the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, the City’s proposed Hudson Yards rezoning would create a new open space network that would connect to the High Line at 30th Street and reach all the way up to 42nd Street.

Support for Friends of the High Line
Friends of the High Line is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, founded in 1999 to preserve the High Line for reuse as an elevated public open space. The co-founders of FHL are Joshua David and Robert Hammond.

Support for the project comes from hundreds of local residents, business-owners, and civic organizations, as well elected officials including U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, New York State Senator Thomas Duane, New York State Assembly Members Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, New York City Council Member Christine Quinn, among others.

For information on Friends of the High Line, please visit Questions can be directed to

About Center for Architecture
The Center for Architecture, home of American Institute of Architects’ New York Chapter and its charitable affiliate, the New York Foundation for Architecture, is a public facility for all interested in the built environment. Through lectures, exhibitions, symposia, and tours, the Center for Architecture promotes an understanding of the importance of architecture, its cutting edge topics, and technological innovations.

For more information, visit AIA New York Chapter’s Web site:

Exhibition Address and Hours
Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place (between Bleecker and West 3rd Streets)
New York, NY 10012

Exhibition Hours
Monday – Friday, 9 am – 8 pm
Saturday, 11 am – 5 pm

Opening night panel discussion moderated by Kurt Andersen
Thursday, July 15, 6pm
RSVP: email or call 212-358-6111


David Shein, RFBinder Partners

Joshua David, Friends of the High Line