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The High Line

Location: New York, USA


The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated, steel structure built in 1930s New York to carry freight trains. It runs from Gansevoort Street, in the Meatpacking District of the city, through the West Chelsea gallery neighborhood, ending at 34th Street, next to the Jacob Javits Convention Center. The last train ran on it in 1980.

The High Line, south of 30th Street, is owned by the City of New York and is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Parks & Recreation. It was donated to the City by CSX Transportation, Inc. which still owns the northernmost section (30th-34th Street). The land beneath the High Line is owned in parcels by New York State, New York City, and more than 20 private property owners.

The High Line is a monument to the industrial history of New York's West Side. It offered an opportunity to create an innovative new public space, raised above the city streets, with views of the Hudson River and the city skyline. Its conversion is planned to be a global model for the reuse of transportation infrastructure, offering greening opportunities, alternative transportation options, and social and economic benefits to meet changing needs in post-industrial urban environments.

The city of Paris successfully converted a similar rail viaduct into an elevated park called the Promenade Plantée in 1993. It is lavishly planted and offers both stairs and elevators for access. Projects similar to the High Line are in early stages in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City, Chicago, and Rotterdam.

The Preliminary Design

In January 2003, Friends of the High Line (FHL) launched Designing the High Line, an open, international, ideas competition, soliciting innovative proposals for the High Line's reuse. Because it was an ideas competition, entries did not have to be practical or realistic. Entrants were encouraged to be bold and forward-thinking—to create visions as unique and unexpected as the High Line itself.

720 individuals and teams from 36 countries submitted proposals to the 2003 Ideas Competition. These were evaluated by a renowned panel of jurors in May 2003. The four principal winners, three special award winners, ten honorable mentions, and more than 150 other noteworthy proposals were displayed at Grand Central Terminal in July 2003.

Follow this link to view all 720 proposals:

Follow this link to view the brief and guidelines:

In October 2004, a Steering Committee made up of representatives from the City of New York and Friends of the High Line selected the team of Field Operations (landscape architecture) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (architecture) to begin design work on the High Line. The team was chosen out of a group of four teams, each of which included experts from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, art, urban planning, horticulture, and numerous other relevant disciplines. The four design team finalists were each asked to present a proposed "design approach" to the High Line. Their submissions were exhibited for the public at New York City's Center for Architecture in summer 2004. These designs were not intended to be final plans but rather illustrations of the direction each team would take the project if selected.

The design team selection process ran for six months, starting in March 2004. 52 teams responded to the original Request for Qualifications. Seven teams were short-listed, and the list of seven was then narrowed to the four finalist teams.

Follow this link to view the design approaches proposed by the four finalists:

The Winning Team

The winning team was led by Field Operations, a landscape architecture firm, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm, and includes experts in the fields of horticulture, engineering, lighting, public art, cost estimating, maintenance planning, security, and other relevant disciplines. Selections from the team’s preliminary set of designs were displayed at the Museum of Modern Art from April to October 2005.

Follow this link to view the archived preliminary designs:

Construction began in April 2006. The first section of the High Line to be constructed, from Gansevoort to 20th Streets, is set to open by the end of 2008. Section 2 (20th Street to 30th Street) is projected to open in 2009.

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Design Development

The High Line was built to hold two loaded freight trains, and it is still structurally sound. As part of construction, the structure is being fully rehabilitated, including concrete repair, repainting, and drainage improvements, prior to its conversion to public open space.

The design team hopes to capture the quiet, contemplative nature of the High Line after the trains stopped running, creating a world apart from the bustling streets of Manhattan. Concrete, reinforced and handsomely textured, will be cast in long, narrow “planks,” forming a smooth, linear, virtually seamless walking surface. Tapered into surrounding plantings designed by Piet Oudolf, they will allow plant life to push up through the seams.

The landscape team has taken cues from plants that grew wild on the High Line. A base matrix of robust grasses will create a cohesive linear landscape. Perennials, shrubs, and trees, selected by renowned horticulturist Piet Oudolf, will create a dynamic planting palette that is constantly changing from week to week, throughout the seasons.

Follow this link for further details on the planting design:

The public environment on the High Line will also contain special features, including water features, children’s features, viewing platforms, sundecks, and gathering areas to be used for performances, art exhibitions, or educational programmes.

Stairs and elevators will be constructed along the length of the structure, assuring that all visitors, including those with disabilities, can rise up to High Line level in a safe and welcoming way. At some locations, these access points will rise up through the structure, allowing visitors to appreciate the steel beams and girders up close

A comprehensive lighting plan will ensure that the top of the High Line can be enjoyed at night and that areas underneath the High Line are made safe and attractive. Light sources, located below eye level, will illuminate the walking path, allowing visitors to see the city lights beyond.

Follow this link for further details of the design:

Community and Political Support

Friends of the High Line (FHL) is a community-based 501(c)(3) organisation dedicated to the preservation and adaptive reuse of the High Line. FHL began as an advocacy group, but once construction is complete, FHL will function as a conservancy, which will raise funds and help operate the park, through a partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.

FHL is committed to engaging the High Line community and all interested New Yorkers in plans for the High Line’s design, reconstruction, programming, and daily operations.

Community input has been central to the High Line project since its inception. Friends of the High Line continues to encourage neighborhood residents, business owners, and all interested members of the public to share their ideas during design and construction.

In 2005, FHL and the design team of Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro held a public presentation of their preliminary designs for the High Line. Over 400 people attended the presentation, which took place at the Bohen Foundation in the Meatpacking District. Afterwards, the design team held an open question and answer session. Attendees were also encouraged to submit questions in writing.

Follow this link to read the summary of the public Q & A session, with answers by FHL, the design team, and the City of New York:

Follow this link for a list of supporters, donors and grant funders:

Elected officials supporting the project include U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Governor Eliot Spitzer, New York State Senator Thomas Duane, New York State Assembly Members Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Speaker of the City Council Christine Quinn, and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Public Art: The Chelsea Market Arts Installation Space

The space where the High Line cuts through the Chelsea Market building, formerly a Nabisco factory, will be a site for public art. ‘The River That Flows Both Ways’ by Spencer Finch, is the public art programme’s inaugural work and is set to open along with the rest of Section 1 of the High Line by the end of the year. The artist plans to install panes of glass in the casement windows of the space. The colour and translucency of each pane is derived from studies of 700 minutes on the Hudson River.

Community Art

In April 2008, Brooklyn-based artist Julia Mandle led sixty 8th-grade art students from the Lab School for Collaborative Studies through the streets of the Meatpacking District and Chelsea, in a performance commissioned by Friends of the High Line. As the students shuffled through the neighborhood on their platform-height “chalk shoes,” they left a green path on the sidewalks that will lead to the High Line’s future access points.


The total anticipated High Line project cost is $170 million. The City of New York has committed $111.45 million, and the federal government has committed $22.1 million, for a total of $133.55 million in public funds. The remaining $36.45 million in construction costs, as well as additional monies for maintenance and operation endowments, will be provided by FHL's private fundraising and developer contributions.

Further Information

Friends of the High Line
430 West 14th Street, Suite 304
New York, NY 10014
Email: [email protected]