Figure/Ground

The High Line

CONTENTS
On Top of the High Line [ 18 photos ]
Beneath the High Line [ 10 photos ]

The High Line is an abandoned elevated rail structure on the West Side of Manhattan. It runs for 1.45 miles (2.33km), from the Javits Center, along the edge of the Hudson River, through Chelsea, and, finally, into the heart of the Meat Packing District.

I've always known it was there, of course, but it sort of just faded into the background of the old industrial buildings of the West Side, often obscured by the warehouses around it. There would be an overpass here and there and the occasional interesting sight of a track going directly into a brick wall or through a building, but I never put it all together in my head in terms of just how long it is or even that it is one continuous structure from Javits to Gansevoort. Like many in the city, whenever I passed by one of these interesting spots I would wonder how cool it was to be able to get on top of it someday but never took the idea seriously as there didn't appear to be any way of getting on top of the thing safely or legally (short of using a ladder or a rope, neither of which seemed particularly safe or lawful).

[Speaking of inaccessible places, there are many other places in the city that I want to see that's not open to the public—the old City Hall Station, for example.]

A recent competition to imagine possible public uses for the dormant structure (à la the Promenade Plantée in Paris) rekindled my interest in the High Line. I saw some photographs taken on top of it and it's more interesting than I had even imagined. After over 20 years of disuse, the tracks are overgrown with all sorts of flora—it's a veritable jungle up there. There are saplings, for crying out loud! Little trees! On an elevated track! In the middle of New York City! I don't know, I thought it was pretty cool.

Armed with the realization that people are getting on top of it somehow, I wanted to get on there myself as well. Here are the photos from my hike on top of the High Line.

All images and text copyright © Liao Yusheng. He can be reached at liao@yusheng.ca.