October 06, 2013
Thoughts on the High Line
Just over a year ago I was over in New York - mostly to attend the Open Hardware Summit and New York Maker Faire, but I had a few days to explore and do some writing. The hotel I stayed in was only a couple of blocks from the start of the High Line park, so I often wound up on there for a morning coffee and some writing until the battery gave out on my laptop. Then I'd have the rest of the day to head off and do something else.
My morning walk along the river in the autumn sunshine today was very reminiscent of similar strolls in New York, which reminded me that I'd still not published the notes on the High Line that I scribbled down in my Moleskine on the first day I walked along it. I'm remedying that here, with minimal editing - just to help the flow a little.
It you want to see what the High Line is like, Treehugger has a nice slideshow of the first section, from back when it opened.
It's really busy. And there are lots of film crews on it too [mostly filming news or documentary pieces, but I also encountered an episode of CSI:New York being filmed one day].
I've just read Jane Jacobs on parks and how they need a purpose. Don't think it would work at night but is definitely popular enough on a Sept mid-weekday morning [and borne out over the rest of my visits over my stay - always lots of people around on it].
I'm not sure you'd use it for short journeys but if travelling further then maybe it does work as a kind of pedestrian expressway.
Tricky to work out why I like this but not the "streets in the sky" of 1960s Britain. Maybe it's the fact that it's threaded through the existing city rather than replacing it? Maybe it's the design - it's a very designed space in some ways - the echoes of tracks in the concrete (and in places still left in place), the benches coming up from the track, or built on little bogies on the old tracks. But at the same time the design is muted - the materials chosen are rusting or the woods fading: chosen for the patina they'll acquire over time rather than to look best at installation.
It also has a lot of staff and volunteers - will those running costs prove to be its downfall?
I love the views you get for, unsurprisingly, the same reason that I like arriving in cities by train. You get a feel for the true city, with all the warts and neglected corners that you see because most buildings are busy presenting their best side to the street while the (ex)railway sneaks round the back. There are signs of this changing with the High Line though, presumably because the passing traffic is more obvious, more personal - or actually, just slower moving. Advertising to trains only works with big bold advertising - pedestrians can appreciate more nuanced and subtle approaches and there were many more examples than the one pictured here.
This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to hire my company to help you with the Internet of Things then get in touch. If you want to learn more about the Internet of Things, my book Designing the Internet of Things is available to pre-order (amazon.co.uk amazon.com), or if you just want a beautiful IoT device, I'm CTO of Good Night Lamp.