At first glance, the High Line wouldn't seem like a natural place for a park. But you need to look at it through the eyes of Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio and James Corner. A 1.5-mile elevated railway track, the High Line served for decades as a route for freight trains going into lower Manhattan. In 1980 the trains stopped running, and the tracks began decades of decay. Grasses and saplings sprouted in the railbeds.
In the '90s, developers pushed for the tracks to be demolished to make way for apartment towers. Remarkably, city officials decided instead to preserve them as the basis for a very unusual elevated park. That's when husband-and-wife artist-architects Diller and Scofidio were brought in, along with Corner and his landscape-design firm Field Operations. What they proposed was a park that did not produce a facsimile of nature but instead preserved the memory of all the things those tracks had been.
In other words, says Corner, it will be a park that constantly puts before the eye the sedimentary layers of history and nature that had settled there over the years. "The High Line was an industrial instrument," he says. "But then it became a secret garden in the sky." So when it opens in 2008, the park will combine meadow plantings, pathways, lighting and old railbeds "in ways that allow you to read the historical layers of the place." There's some reading we really look forward to.
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