Posts Tagged ‘High Line’

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New Yorkers avoid Times Square, and Chicagoans stay away from Navy Pier. It’s an ironclad rule. The public spaces that are most popular are there to attract tourists. Locals don’t go there.

In Chicago, going to Navy Pier had been something like a grudging civic responsibility you accept when you have out-of-town guests. It’s always been the most meta of Chicago’s architectural landmarks—essentially a large viewing platform, at more than half a mile long, for the city’s epic skyline, the finest way to see it all without a boat. But best to keep your eyes on the horizon, and not look at the motley collection of cotton candy vendors and garish signs that crowded the waterfront.

But today Navy Pier is looking and acting more like an authentic part of the city, for locals and tourists alike. A renovation by James Corner Field Operations has turned it from a tourist mall to a (more…)

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Susan Chin of the Design Trust for Public Space pushes to open new layers of cities.


In 2002, the Design Trust for Public Space published Reclaiming the High Line, a critical voice of support that helped jump-start the growing momentum to preserve that rusting hulk of a rail bed in Lower Manhattan. Now a city- and pedestrian-scaled outdoor art walk and landscape, the High Line is likely the most influential urban infrastructure renovation of the past 30 years. In another 30 years, it will probably still be.

But what if the High Line weren’t a spectacular one-off that left cities from coast to coast scrambling to replicate it? What if what the High Line is, and how it came about, could be codified and planned as easily as train track rails or the concrete columns hoisting up miles of elevated freeway?

The Design Trust thinks it could be. For the past several years, the organization has been researching ways to improve the public space in, around, and especially beneath actively used elevated transit infrastructure. Its report, (more…)

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Chicago's elevated rail park, The 606, was conceived and funded as transit infrastructure.

Chicago’s elevated rail park, the 606, was conceived and funded as transit infrastructure.

From the April 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

For a relatively new landscape typology, elevated rail parks suffer from no shortage of claims about what they can do for cities. Namely, they can renovate decaying infrastructure, add green space to dense urban areas, improve public health by offering more opportunities for exercise, and honor, rather than demolish, historic industrial landscapes in neighborhoods under immense pressure to remove them.

Beyond New York’s famous High Line, a new generation of elevated rail parks is adding a very practical use to the list, one quite divorced from typical ideas about recreational park use: They can become transit and commuter corridors.

Newly opened this weekend, Chicago’s new elevated rail park, called the 606 (named for the first three digits of Chicago zip codes), will offer landscaped paths to harried bicycle commuters and recreational amblers alike. The park will run 2.7 miles on the former Bloomingdale freight rail line, which has been closed since the 1990s, from the far west side almost to the River North central business district. It is said to be the first such park to combine pedestrians and cyclists along its whole length. The landscape design is by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.


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Set-asides for women-owned firms are a paradox.  some can move you ahead. others are just a headache.

Set-asides for women-owned firms are a paradox. Some can move you ahead. Others are just a headache. Credit: Greeen/shutterstock.com

From the February 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Andrea Cochran, FASLA, the San Francisco-based landscape architect, has received the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Award, the ASLA Design Medal, and many other honors. But despite her prominence, she says, she still sees sexism affecting the profession. “It’s not overt, but it’s there,” says Cochran, explaining that it is precisely her success that makes her aware of the problem. “If you asked me when I was in my 20s if I had ever experienced sexism, I would have laughed at you,” she says. “But then you get to a certain point in your career and you realize there is a glass ceiling.” In her experience, “It’s still hard to get certain types of jobs, some of the bigger jobs, if you’re a woman.”

So Cochran supports programs that require prime contractors on public projects to award a percentage of the work to “women business enterprises,” or WBEs. “If being a WBE helps me get a job, that’s fine,” says Cochran, her voice rising, “because there are lots of other jobs I would have gotten if I were a guy.”


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The final section of the High Line, the Rail Yards, opened this week. Photo by Alex Ulam.

The nature is wilder and the views more spectacular along the new and final section of the High Line, which opened to the public this past Sunday, fittingly on the same day of the People’s Climate March. Surrounding me was one of the largest expanses of open skyline in Manhattan. Underfoot was a landscape consisting of rusted rails, wildflowers, and scrappy wild grasses fluttering in the wind—an example of the original self-seeded raw landscape that took hold after the trains stopped running in 1980. Photographs of this scrappy bit of urban nature played a critical role in the campaign to save the abandoned elevated rail trestle and convert it into a unique public park 30 feet above Manhattan’s busy streets. Until the opening of the new section, the journey along the High Line primarily ran through narrow canyons of buildings and offered mostly snapshot views of the streets below. Part of the charm was not knowing what was ahead, playing hide-and-seek with the city beneath your feet while discovering hidden gardens and outlooks that the High Line’s design team of James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf had designed along the old rail trestle. (more…)

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