Monday, July 27, 2009

A Weekend of NYC Urbanism

I visited the Highline with a fellow architecture friend, Julia, a few weekends back. After talking the walk, we checked out the exhibit "The Future Beneath Us" at the Public Library and Grand Central Terminal.

For those of you that aren't familiar, The Highline is a new urban park in NYC built on the elevated train tracks on the west side of the city. There was intense debate over its construction, and New York Magazine ran a great article spelling out the story. This is the first completed section, but two more sections are to come.

As an architecture major, I've found that people expect me to have insightful critiques prepared merits, successes and failures of the Highline project as it stands now. While I can't offer anything earth-shattering that hasn't been already said, I will say this: right now, the Highline is novelty. You have to wait in line to see it because everyone is making it their weekend activity, and you're going to hear a myriad of different complaints, compliments, and reactions from all of those people. When asked what I think, I just say "Come back in 10 years, see what has happened then." This is a public park, not a thrill ride, and eventually, I'm assuming that the glimmer will wear off and the Highline will melt into the fabric of NYC, a familiar constant rather than an unfamiliar outlier. When that has happened, we can take another look and see how the Highline is being used, and try to better understand what credentials we can use to best judge it.

Here's what we saw.

First building you encounter is the Standard Hotel. (see this article here about this place!)


Nope, don't know these guys, but the seats are very cool.

10th Avenue Square: The street becomes the stage.

View looking out the windows of the 10th Avenue Square.

Back at the audience.

Architecture renderings of the 10th Avenue Square. (via

Check out the clever drainage on these water fountains!

Looking back at the end.

Two more sections to come in this direction.

Then we moved onto the "The Future Beneath Us":

Drilling samples.

If you've taken a train ride into NYC with me recently, you probably sat there, rolling your eyes as I told you about "how insane this is." When the tunnel under the Hudson River was first constructed in the early 19th century, it had two tracks: one going into the city, and one going out. Guess what? There is STILL only a single track in either direction. The new rail project is going to fix this problem buy constructing new track and tunnels, but until that's built, every person that leaves or enters New York on a commuter train has to go through this tunnel (where your ears pop). How insane is that?

This drilling machine is awesome. 'Nuff said.

I didn't take as many photos of the exhibit as I should have, but it was very interesting to check out. It's always amazing to see what goes on underground and behind the scenes to keep the city going. The history and future of this kind of infrastructure is incredible.

More info and links:

-There is a also great post over at sub-studio design blog that I would recommend reading as well. Their photos have that "I know what I'm doing quality" that mine still tend to lack: The Highline@sub-studio.
-New York Magazine article: read here
-Offical Highline site:
-Website for The Future Beneath Us exhibit

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