High Line Competition

High Line Competition in New York, NY by Hariri & Hariri, 2003

Starting at the Hudson Rail Yards, the High Line rail structure rises up and through the art galleries of West Chelsea toward the Gansevoort Meat Packing District, traversing 22 city blocks and traveling through two buildings at an average of 30 feet above street level. Built in the early 1930's to carry freight to the factories and warehouses in the West Side, the High Line's main intention was the elimination of over 100 dangerous street-level rail crossings. Closed in 1980, the rail structures has been demolished in sections to its present 1.5-mile length.

Interest in the High Line's history and potential has led to support by the Mayor and New York's Department of City Planning for its reuse. An important factor in gaining the city's support was the competition, "Designing the High Line", held in Spring 2003 and sponsored by Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and reuse of the elevated rail structure on the West Side of Manhattan. An honorable mention, featured here, is the entry by Gisue Hariri of New York's Hariri and Hariri, that envisions the High Line's role in the city's bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Hariri's proposal recommends a zoning change, so private property owners adjacent to the High Line can build mixed-use structures up to 400 feet. Their buildings, most likely residential, would provide an easement above the tracks for cultural and commercial uses, helping to provide access to the elevated structure, a primary concern of the competition. These towers would stretch from an Olympic Park built over the Hudson Rail Yards to 17th Street, where the High Line would terminate (it now extends to 14th Street) and a pedestrian bridge would link the development to a new gateway pier in the Hudson River.

While her entry seems to use the High Line towards another goal, the towers attempt to relate to the rail's history, as the tracks penetrated buildings in order to deliver goods. This purely functional aspect of the rail's use is transformed into an - albeit elegant - aesthetic role. Nevertheless, these organically-shaped openings become the focus of the project, since they are the intersection of horizontal and vertical, of the former's movement and the latter's weight, or apparent lack thereof. And while the proposal's renderings are limited to speed skaters and other Olympic athletes, it is easy to imagine the High Line's use afterward for recreation, culture and commerce.