A Walk Through High Line Section 2

The High Line’s Section 2 is open! As most visitors to Land8 may know by now, New York City’s High Line was a freight rail line operating from 1934 to 1980 that carried mail to the Post Office, goods to and from the meatpacking district, and agricultural items to the factories and warehouses of the industrial West Side.  Take a walk through the High Line after the jump…

“Inspired by the melancholic, unruly beauty of this postindustrial ruin, where nature has reclaimed a once vital piece of urban infrastructure, the new park interprets its inheritance. It translates the biodiversity that took root after it fell into ruin in a string of site-specific urban microclimates along the stretch of railway that include sunny, shady, wet, dry, windy, and sheltered spaces….The park accommodates the wild, the cultivated, the intimate, and the social. Access points are durational experiences designed to prolong the transition from the frenetic pace of city streets to the slow otherworldly landscape above.”  –James Corner Field Operations, project lead, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf

In 1999, area residents Joshua David and Robert Hammond formed the non-profit group Friends of the High Line and began advocating for the High Line’s preservation and renovation for pedestrian use; the group partnered with Pentagram‘s Paula Scher beginning in 2000 to create an visual identity for the group and for the project. With heightened public awareness and interest, and support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the High Line secured $50 million in public funding in 2004; in 2005, the tracks that form Sections 1 and 2 of the High Line were donated to the City of New York by CSX Transportation, which still owns the uncompleted northern section running from West 30th to West 34th Streets. Construction began in 2006.

Designed by James Corner Field Operations, project lead, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf, Section 1 of the High Line opened on June 8, 2009 to critical and public acclaim, and after years of inspiration, building community and city support, fundraising, planning and construction, New York’s premier elevated park came closer to completion with the opening of Section 2 on June 8, 2011. With Section 2 open, the High Line now runs from Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street, connecting the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.

“It’s a park that really celebrates the city, and people up here will walk 20 blocks, which they would never do 30 feet below us…” said architect Ricardo Scofidio. According to Scofidio, it was conceived as a musical composition with a single theme running continuously through the park. For example, paving that “feathers” into the grass, allowing visitors to move in and out of the vegetation beds, establishes a theme early in the project and continues to play with the theme in various ways and locations throughout the park.

I’ll briefly touch on the main points of interest from south to north from Section 1 through Section 2, ending at the stretch that will hopefully be completed someday as Section 3.


At 20th Street, the transition from Section 1 to Section 2 begins as visitors wind through the Chelsea Thicket, a comparatively wild area that differs from the more ordered and sparse plantings in Section 1. Enclosed by foliage, visitors can experience a sense of privacy and shelter here, occasionally able to view the cityscape through breaks in the foliage.


Continuing on from the Chelsea Thicket, the Line opens to a wider area where extra tracks served as a rail siding. Here, seating steps and an almost 5,000 square foot lawn (the first and only on the High Line) at 22nd and 23rd Streets invite visitors to step off the path and relax, providing a place to rest, socialize and observe. The 22nd Street bleacher-type steps mirror the materials and form of the seating in Section 1’s 10th Street Square. Towards 23rd Street, the concrete base supporting the lawn lifts up above the grade of the High Line, providing a slightly elevated vantage point for visitors to view Manhattan from river to river (to help the lawn recover after rains and heavy foot traffic, the lawn is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).

“…Through a strategy of agri-tecture—part agriculture, part architecture—the High Line surface is digitized into discrete units of paving and planting which are assembled along the 1.5 miles into a variety of gradients from 100% paving to 100% soft, richly vegetated biotopes.” – James Corner Field Operations, project lead, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf


Between 25th and 27th Streets, the Philip A. and Lisa Maria Falcone Woodland Flyover elevates visitors to tree-top level. Countering the heavy steel of the High Line itself, the delicate “bridge on a bridge” lifts visitors 8’ above the Line surface. The vegetation here takes advantage of a microclimate created by adjacent warehouses; at the High Line level, moss and groundcovers (liriope muscari ‘Densiflora’ for example) surround the trunks of the sumacs and magnolias that reach up to the Flyover level. As the trees mature and grow, visitors will eventually be cradled and shaded by a lush tree canopy.


Along the High Line, seating areas punch out from the main path at various locations and angles. One of these at 26th Street is a “Viewing Spur” that forms a two-way “theater” to the street below. The designers removed a billboard and added a frame in its place to evoke the shape and location of the former sign, forming a window that captures the busy streetlife. The steps and framing continue the language of the 10th Street Square (much as the steps at 22nd Street do), visually connecting park users with the car and foot traffic and the city below. Captured by the frame of the former billboard, visitors to the viewing spur become objects of scrutiny by pedestrians on the street.


As visitors approach the end of Section 2 as they pass over West Chelsea, they pass through the Wildflower Field, which is covered in native grasses and perennials, forming an ever-changing landscape. Many of these plant species were the original colonizers of the High Line after its abandonment in 1980.

“…The paving system consists of individual pre-cast concrete planks with open joints to encourage emergent growth like wild grass through cracks in the sidewalk. The long paving units have tapered ends that comb into planting beds creating a textured, “pathless” landscape where the public can meander in unscripted ways….”

—James Corner Field Operations, project lead, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf


Continuing on through a curve between 29th and 30th Streets, visitors pass over a cutout over 30th Street which exposes the heavy steel support structure of the High Line. The cutout allows visitors to see the Line’s massive supporting structure and the street below, a reminder of the industrial underpinnings of New York’s popular new park.

A temporary public plaza called “The Lot” sits beside and under the High Line at 30th Street, providing a place to buy food, socialize and play; programming will change throughout the summer.

Photo credit (above images):  Juan Valentin, courtesy of Friends of the High Line

The High Line, already reportedly the most visited tourist spot in New York, is a landmark case of marshaling community support to transform a derelict but admired industrial relic into a vital, modern and useful resource for an entire city.  If you’ve visited the High Line, please share your comments and experiences!


A clip of a revealing construction tour of High Line Section 2 with Robert Hammond of Friends of the High Line:  High Line Section 2 Construction Tour – Winter 2010

For Pentagram’s case study on establishing the visual identity and branding of the Friends of the High Line group and of the High Line itself, visit

Design Team: James Corner Field Operations, project lead, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Piet Oudolf.  View the full list of the design team.

Photo credit: all images, except where noted, by Iwan Baan, courtesy of Friends of the High Line

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