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New York, Highline, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, James Corner Field Operations

Obstructed Views at High Line Park

In a way similar to what has already happened in London, the world’s super-rich have now discovered the potential of New York’s real-estate market for investment and speculation. Outrageously expensive luxury apartment complexes and towers are currently springing up like mushrooms; entire districts are changing thanks to a dramatic gentrification process that is, to a significant extent, displacing local populations and small businesses. Nowhere in the city is this development as drastic as it is in the area of High Line, which was designed by architects and landscape planners Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations.

The phenomenon is particularly exemplified by the part of Chelsea where a few months ago the address at 520 West 28th Street, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, was occupied by an expressive shell of organically formed stainless-steel elements. The most expensive apartment here is said to have gone for just under 50 million dollars. However, kitty corner to 520 West 28th, this price has been surpassed by a 930-m² unit that takes up three floors of a glass cube by Peter Marino.

Apart from various other complexes that are currently approaching completion, the structural work of Bjarke Ingels’ Twisting High Line Towers is rising about a kilometre south of the Chelsea development. As with the Zaha Hadid design, it is their spectacular shape that takes centre stage. In comparison, the new buildings coming up against the north end of the park appear rather bland. This is where the largest urban development project in the history of New York, known as Hudson Yards, is currently underway. The massive mountain of diversely shaped skyscrapers that shimmer in a uniform blue-grey extends right to the park trail. Indeed, their various perspectives now form the background for visitors to the park. The enormous new development area will be loosened up by Thomas Heatherwick’s somewhat idiosyncratic sculpture Vessel, a honeycomb of interconnected stairways, as well as by a project already widely admired although it will not be completed until 2019: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Shed, a structure that will be characterized by its retractable roof that is to open and close by means of huge rollers. This structure of steel and membrane, which will stand at the foot of a high-rise by the same planners, will be a multipurpose space for cultural events and the art scene. It, too, will extend all the way to the edge of the park. Whether this gigantic, high-tech building by the architects of High Line itself will later be seen as a threat or an architectural highlight that enhances the neighbourhood will be determined after its completion.

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