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Friends of the High Line Unveils Finalists' Designs


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

TerraGRAM: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, with D.I.R.T. Studio and Beyer Blinder Belle

Steven Holl Architects, with Hargreaves Associates and HNTB
Images Courtesy Teams Named Above

Last week at New York’s Center for Architecture, Friends of the High Line and the City of New York unveiled designs by four world-class teams competing to reimagine and redesign Manhattan’s High Line, a dormant rail trestle spanning some 1.5 miles along the city’s west side.

Through the ever-intensifying efforts of the non-profit FHL and its partners within the City, the planning stage is well underway for this multi-million dollar redevelopment of a unique urban space. The winning design team will be selected this August and, by early 2005, FHL and the City hope to have a masterplan that will allow construction to begin in 2006.

The teams are each a coalition of architects, landscapers, and artists, and their submissions are by no means final designs for the High Line:

Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with Olafur Eliasson, Piet Oudolf, and Buro Happold

This team has labeled its vision "Agri-tecture," a flowing mixture of organic and man-made environments, soft surfaces and hard surfaces (including a bridge, mound, pit, and "flyover"), with diverse grasslands punctuated by open and enclosed gathering spaces. These will provide various "gradients of intensity," seeking to transform the "melancholic, unruly, unregulated" nature of the structure into something "denser, more intense." Each area will provide visitors with a different experience of time: pacing, moving through it, seasonal change.

Zaha Hadid Architects, with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, and studio MDA

This team has created a sleek and futuristic vision for the High Line, a techno-friendly and rationalized environment that seeks to establish a "connection between landscape, topography, and architecture." The design includes a "lighting vocabulary suggestive of water" which emphasizes "the graceful flow of the High Line." Open and enclosed walkways will traverse parks and public spaces in a "choreography of paths," anchored by a marketplace at the southern end of the structure.

TerraGRAM: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, with D.I.R.T. Studio and Beyer Blinder Belle

Their vision is a "park meander," a diverse array of green environments laid down in the midst of extreme urbanity: miniature forests, an urban canyon, and azalea thickets. The team has based its ideas around an "eco-technology" that is formed through "appreciation for this industrial landscape and accepting it for what it is – degraded and in some cases toxic" – though possessing inherent beauty and a New York-style resilience.

The design takes special care to specify stairway access from the street and various urbane vista points.

Steven Holl Architects, with Hargreaves Associates and HNTB

This team plans a "suspended valley" with greenways and pathways anchored on one end by an observation tower and 500-person event space, and on the other by a water-taxi pier on the Hudson River. This extension of the existing span is intended as a "reverse flow" of the High Line’s gradual shortening over the years. The team’s landscaping seeks to strike a delicate balance between public access and undisturbed ecology. "I couldn’t make it green enough!" exclaimed Mr. Holl.

Ilan Kayatsky

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