The third leg of the High Line starts where the second leg leaves off, at 30th Street and 10th Avenue, then loops around Hudson Yards, the proposed commercial development of a massive rail yard.

A closeup view.

The High Line will cut through development that doesn’t even exist yet. Here, the park passes under a skyscraper that’s expected to be nearly as tall the Empire State Building.

The designers haven’t decided what to do with this wide platform--the widest stretch of the entire park--which was once used to transport mail. It might be converted into an amphitheater…

Or a densely planted open space.

Visitors will be able to walk on the High Line’s original tracks. The so-called rail walk might incorporate old switchgear, too.

A new stairwell will provide access to the park at the intersection of West 30th Street and 11th Avenue.

The designers plan to rip up existing concrete boards, and coat the exposed beams underneath in rubber to create a kids’ climbing structure--the park’s first designated play feature.

The High Line’s design is complicated by the simultaneous development of Hudson Yards. Along one stretch of the park, the designers propose building a temporary walkway that’ll serve as a placeholder until nearby construction lets up.

The point of an interim park instead of just waiting to build something permanent? "People will get to see the High Line the way that it was [before the new development]," Lisa Switkin, of James Corner Field Operations, says.

Another view.

The High Line’s existing "peel-up" benches will be expanded to include peel-up picnic tables, peel-up water fountains, peel-up work stations, and more.

Co.Design

A First Look At The High Line's Incredible Final Phase

With each addition, the design elements of the High Line have grown better. This third phase should be the best by far.

Initial details of the third and final leg of the High Line were released at a community meeting yesterday evening. Slated to open in 2014, the estimated $90 million extension of Manhattan’s madly popular railroad-turned-elevated park includes easy access to public transportation, breathtaking views of the Hudson River, and a climbing structure designed explicitly for kids.

[The third leg of the High Line crosses under a proposed skyscraper. Note the lounge chairs, which afford dizzying views of the tower and cantilever clear over the street.]

But the most noticeable feature will be the one that’s missing: the 360-degree panorama of gritty old New York that provides a cinematic backdrop to the High Line’s lush first and second stretches. The third leg starts at 30th Street and cuts west toward the Hudson River, then north to 34th Street, around Hudson Yards, the proposed commercial development of a massive rail yard. Today, the yard is a no man’s land—just a lot cross-hatched by train tracks and sleepy LIRR cars. In a few years, it’ll be the new end point of the expanded seven-subway line. Ten years from now, it could be covered in towers, one of which might nearly rival the mind-boggling height of the Empire State Building. In other words, the designers are planning for an urban environment that doesn’t exist yet. But when it does, it’ll be huge.

"The context is very different," says Lisa Switkin, of the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations, which codesigned the High Line with the designers Diller Scofidio + Renfro. "The existing High Line mainly runs mid-block, north-south along historic buildings and some new buildings. Here, the High Line is running east-west mostly on 30th Street. On one side there’s the street; on the other, 21st-century development. We had to ask, how do we respond to the new conditions?"

The answer: Maintain the design DNA of the High Line that’s already there, while embracing the unique western orientation and the ginormous scale of the proposed Hudson Yards development. In the "DNA" camp, there will be additional "peel up" benches—seats that look like they grow out of the ground elsewhere on the High Line—only they’ll be more elaborate. There will be peel-up planters, peel-up picnic tables, peel-up water fountains, and even peel-up desks (so you can whip out your laptop and toil away to the soundtrack of urban mayhem?).

[Rubber-coated beams carved into the walkway will be the first play feature designated for kids.]

In the "embrace the surroundings" camp, there’s a proposed elevated lookout point around 11th Avenue for gajillion-dollar views of the Hudson River. (Prediction: Many, many wedding photographs will be taken here.) There will also be lounge chairs in a 70-foot-tall tunnel, where one of the proposed Hudson Yards towers passes over the High Line. Lie back, and you’ll get a dizzying view of the mammoth skyscraper above—an effect that’s all the more exhilarating (or frightening, depending on how you feel about heights) because the chairs cantilever over the street below.

The design scheme is limited by the complexities of building a park and a large mixed-use development at the same time. Most notably, the designers have proposed a temporary walkway ("a simple path through the existing landscape," according to press materials) that’ll serve as a placeholder until nearby construction on Hudson Yards lets up. "That area will be a construction site," Switkin says, so you can’t build a permanent park right away. "Instead, we’ll create a walkway over the landscape, and people will get to see the High Line the way that it was [before the new development]."

Other design moves were informed, at least in part, by public feedback. People demanded play space for kids. In response, the designers came up with the idea to rip out concrete planks just west of 11th Avenue, then cover the beams underneath in thick rubber, creating a climbing structure that lets kids literally play inside the old railroad. "That’ll be really the first design feature truly designated for kids," says Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Matthew Johnson. People also asked, "Can we continue to embrace the historical components of the High Line?" he says. So the designers plan to develop a "rail walk" where visitors can traipse around on train tracks. The walk might even incorporate old switchgear. "Whether it will be fully operational remains to be seen," Johnson says.

A "spur" that’ll provide much-needed open space along the park’s length.

Another big request: more open space. One of the primary complaints about the second leg of the High Line is that it’s too narrow and jams up with wide-eyed tourists fast. The designers hope to turn a large swath of section three—a platform freight trains used to carry mail to and from the post office loading docks—into either an amphitheater or an open gathering space. Along the park’s narrower tracts, they’ll sacrifice dense plantings for wider paths. "People wanted relief from heavy traffic, especially on the weekends," Johnson says. "The section between 11th and 10th avenues has a lot more hardscape than previous areas."

In some ways, Part III is shaping up to be the toughest installation in the HL trilogy yet. "Section three has posed some of the more complex problems," Switkin says. "Not only do you have to live up to the success of the first two sections, but also there’s a desire to do something different that’s about the new New York. Sections one and two were partially about responding to the historic Meatpacking District and Chelsea. This is a gesture toward a historic relic, but it’s also moving into the future."

[Images courtesy of Friends of the High Line]

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20 Comments

  • Prescott, UMN

    As an L.Arch/Urban Planning grad student, I've been following this project closely.  So far, it's very successful.  My three thoughts:

    1: Linking to high-end commercial does risk a 'mall' feel/typology.  But, you can hardly walk around NYC and not be exposed to retail/commercial.

    2: From what I know of the traffic patterns and use on the High Line, the path/native planting section near the rail yard (2nd or 3rd from the last rendering in the slideshow) is maybe too narrow.  Maybe that's the point (more space for plants), but I think people would just get in each other's way.  Afterall, standard sidewalk widths in NYC can be up to 15+ feet.

    3: The Peel-Up typology is wonderful.  It works with the driving metaphor of the overall design, the Peel-Up Work and Peel-Up Play (See-Saw) are great, and you can almost never go wrong getting people to interact with water, as in the Peel-Up Water feature.

    Good luck to the project team!  As I know/can see here, there will always be plenty of opposition to public-space projects.

  • John K.

    What an ugly design....the money could be used on something else....attest on a better design....pointless, and not functional!

  • Someone

    for 90 mil I could design a much useful, and better looking structure...what a waste of money!

  • Pam Daniels

    I adore the high line, and love the idea of adding elements for kids.  I shuddered at the image of kids playing on railroad tracks though.  Approximately every two hours a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the U.S.  I hope the designers will reconsider their planned approach and the resulting message that railroad tracks are a place to play. They're not.  

  • RICHARD ROLLISON

    lOVE THE HIGH-lINE,BUT I FEAR THIS PROPOSAL.i THINK IT WILL DESTROY THE ORIGINAL ARTSY NATURE BY LINKING TO LUXURY HIGH RISES AND RETAIL.COULD JUST BECOME ANOTHER DAMN MALL.

  • JenniWest

    Yay! Someone with more skill than I possess is making my future dreams come true!

  • Guest

    Where's the grass? What happened to enjoying nature without having to over complicate things?

  • Warwick Absolon

    As someone who went to NYC (from Brisbane, Australia) and visited the High Line late last year, this is a great edition. The High Line was my highlight! Can't wait to see it when we come back.

    Warwick, Brisbane 

  • Nicholas

    I just got back from Brooklyn last week after visit to sort of half family reunion, half school reunion, mostly a one-night party for those who were "Growing Up in Brooklyn".
    My cousin (her 4th or 5th) and I (my very first) went for a walk on High Lane. My reaction after the beginning to the end of walk path; simply stunning, breathlessly, I wowed more than I could count, took many, many pictures!
    My whole perspective of Manhattan (as well as partially New Jersey) landscapes changed.
    Anybody planning to visit New York City, this is the first thing you should go.
    Cheers!

  • Steven Leighton

    Great idea to have an area for kids.
    So often DINK and solo designers /politicians/NGO's / hipsters / DWELL readers forget about kids-- mind you one little play area aint much. NYC certainly isn´t kid play friendly.

  • Maria

    It's amazing how a group of visionaries turned decaying railroad tracks into a beautiful park!  And the dream keeps unfolding...

  • Daphne Cheung

    The concept of the playground is interesting, but I would hope the fence they have in the picture would be higher so it's impossible for a kid to climb or even the thought of throwing something.

  • Steven Leighton

     Relax ´cos nothing is impossible for kids to climb if they have the nerve--

  • Diana

    While I'd love to see all the images, I can't seem to get the 'new and improved' slideshow to work.

  • downpour

    Is having a public space 'above' main roads a good idea? 

    There is a bridge I have to go under sometimes, where kids gather to drop things on the cars as they go underneath.

  • Peter

    Many local councils solve this problem by adding inwards curving sheilds to the bridge to make it more of an open air sky-tunnel. I've seen it done both incredibly well and horribly in different places.