The High Line

Almost a year since its opening, the High Line has proven to be ever more popular. I have found that the best time to visit the place is early in the morning. Unlike Central Park, which Olmstead designed to shut out the city, the High Line's greatest appeal is its engagement with the city. It is said that cultural landscapes are our unwitting autobiography, "reflecting our tastes, our values, our aspirations, and even our fears, in tangible, visible form." So reading the High Line would tell us that we've moved away from the 19th century romantic idea of nature as something precious and separate from the industrialized cities. It's not that we yearn for nature any less, but we have come to enfold it into our urban space as a necessary part of our landscape. There is no more separation between culture and nature. In fact, both nature and culture are enhanced by their proximity to each other. From its elevated spot, the High Line opens up new vistas to the city below, and its wildness makes a forceful juxtaposition to the architecture around it. For all its high-concept design–and I have yet to see anything more meticulously designed, down to the elegant expansion joints on the paving– what I love best about the park is the way people have made it their own, improvising picnic tables from the long benches and turning the 10th Avenue Square into an outdoor classroom–a watercolor painting class was taking place as I walked it past this morning. And credit must be given to Piet Oudolf's planting design, which does a wonderful job of retaining the some of the wild and rambling atmosphere inherent in park's former iteration as an abandoned railway. Seeing the wondrous plantings–the mounds of grass waving gently in the wind, the bright patches of flowers blooming in between the rail tracks, and groves of amelanchiers laden with deliciously ripe berries–just makes me happy.

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