If you are into cool, modern garden design, check out this new park in New York City: The Highline. What used to be an old railway line raised above the city streets has now been converted it into a public park in West Chelsea and Meatpacking District on the city’s west side.

The rail lines used to bring in loads to the formerly industrial neighborhood, but stopped running in the early 1980′s. Since that time, the area became an abandoned urban space with invasive weeds colonizing the narrow raised platforms. A community-based non-profit formed in the late 90′s determined to make this a usable space for the city.

The project has been broken up into three phases, with Phase I opening this past summer. It was a collaboration between landscape architecture and urban design firm James Corner Field Operations with architecture firm Diller Scofido + Renfro.

I visited the park a couple weeks ago and even in winter there are interesting things to see. The white bark of the birch trees look serene against red berry bushes. Birds were twittering through the branches and people were still reading the paper on the lounge chairs, which overlook the western waters edge of Manhattan. You notice the architecture of the space more too in the winter – like how the benches scattered through the park rise right out of the slabs used on the paths.

More than just another city park, this is a reclamation project – taking an unused, abandoned space and turning it into an urban oasis. The design pays homage to what the space once was. For example, railway lines still run through the beds that are now planted with various trees, shrubs and grasses.

One of my favorite details in the park are the pathways. Their edges break up as they transition into the planted beds. That allows the grasses to creep into the openings of the path edges, mimicking the invasive nature of the weeds that once covered the space. We don’t always need to wipe a landscape clean and do something completely different. Often there is a way to preserve some of that landscape history in the new spaces we create.

If you get a chance to visit the city, regardless of the time of year, take a break from the concrete streets and visit the Highline. How nice for New Yorkers to get such an interesting green ribbon strung through the west side.

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