2011 Awards of Excellence: High Line Intensive Institutional

The High Line is a public park built on a 1.45-mile-long elevated rail structure running from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street on Manhattan’s West Side. Originally a freight rail line, the High Line was in operation from 1934 to 1980, and it carried meat to the meat packing district, agricultural goods to the factories and warehouses of the industrial West Side, and mail to the Post Office.

The High Line is inherently a green structure. It re-purposes a piece of industrial infrastructure as public green space. The High Line landscape functions essentially like a green roof; porous pathways contain open joints, so water can drain between planks and water adjacent planting beds, cutting down on the amount of storm-water that runs off the site into the sewer system.

The High Line’s green roof system is designed to allow the plants to retain as much water as possible. In addition, there is an irrigation system with options for both automatic and manual watering. This system will be particularly important in the first few years as the plants establish themselves, but less necessary over time.

With the thousands of people that visit the High Line every single day, it could be argued that the High Line receives more attention than any green roof in the world at the present time.

– Dylan Peck, Head Project Manager, Kelco Construction, Inc.

In fall 2004, FHL and the City of New York jointly selected a design team for the High Line through a six-month design competition. The team of James Corner Field Operations, a landscape architecture firm, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm, includes planting designer Piet Oudolf and experts in the fields of horticulture, engineering, lighting, public art, cost estimating, maintenance planning, security, and other relevant disciplines.

The public space blends plant life (reminiscent of the quiet contemplative nature of the self-seeded landscape and wild plantings that once grew on the unused High Line) with long, narrow “planks,” forming a smooth, linear, virtually seamless walking surface. The public environment on the High Line contains special features, including a water feature, viewing platforms, a sundeck, and gathering areas to be used for performances, art exhibitions and educational programs.

The High Line has rigorous maintenance requirements and the Friends of the High Line, many of whose members are volunteers, are responsible for maintaining this wonderful space. This organization seeks to preserve the entire historic structure and continue the transformation of an essential piece of New York’s industrial past. Through stewardship, innovative design and programming, and excellence in operations, the High Line is increasingly serving as a vibrant community hub.

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