Friday, 22 May 2015

New York: The High Line

The High Line

We read about the High Line some time ago and today we finally get to see it. It is a "linear park" constructed on an elevated freight railway line which had become redundant. It is owned by New York City Council but operated by the Friends of the High Line. I downloaded a map of the route from the Friends website (it is actually focused on art on the High Line).

We walked the ten blocks from our hotel on East 31st St and joined the High Line at a walkway on West 34th St just past 11th Avenue. The most striking thing as we walked over was that after about 8th Avenue the buildings were lower rise and you could see the sky without cricking your neck. The High Line starts near the Hudson rail yard and it is clear that the whole area is being redeveloped. (It was interesting to see the glass exterior being added to a new building.)

 A large sign welcomes you to the High Line.

The initial section is newly opened and essentially there is just the former rail track on one side, with some minimal planting, and a walkway on the other. The Hudson river is on the right with New Jersey visible ahead on the opposite bank.

Soon however you begin to grasp the concept of a linear park as there are more interesting plantings and decking, and extensive seating areas. This view looks back towards the river.

There are several art installations on the High Line, of which more later, but the first thing to catch my eye was a brilliant piece of street art on the end wall of a terrace of houses.

A bit further on it was starting to become very crowded and there was an area of grass with lots of people enjoying the sun in a very park-like way. Here another wall was having its street art changed. The old version said "Honey I twisted through more darn traffic today", which to my mind is frankly dull - the emerging new one looks a bit more stimulating. Honey etc. was the work of Ed Ruscha, who is apparently famous for his word paintings.

Next there was something very clever: a graffiti tag which had been made into a three dimensional shape. Viewed from the right angle it seems to be on the wall 20ft behind it. It is the work of the Mexican artist Damian Ortega. 

Earlier there had been a pleasing glimpse of the Chrysler Building and soon it was the turn of the Empire State.

At 16th St we briefly left the High Line to have a look at the famous Chelsea Market. The initial impression was quite pleasing...

... but overall we found it a bit claustrophobic and soon left.  The High Line now passes through a building (it originally went through many more) and on its side was another jolly piece of street art.

The High Line ends - rather abruptly - at Gansevoort St - and you descend the steps to street level.

But,  rather wonderfully, you have arrived at the newly opened Whitney Gallery designed by Renzo Piano. It's certainly a bit different and no doubt has excellent exhibition spaces inside, but it does look rather strange. I much prefer the equally new Fondation Louis Vuitton which we recently saw in Paris.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: the High Line itself is only a mile and half long.

Rating: five stars for novelty and imagination. Definitely worth going north to south.

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