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Flyovers are usually characterized as anti-pedestrian areas, where wheels never stop rolling. They lack any aesthetic value from an urban point of view and are designed to ease street-level traffic, they are thus considered important functional structures. A group of New Yorkers changed the concept of a flyover from a functional structure to a beautiful urban space that serves as a social gathering center for local residents.
Built in the 1930s, the High Line was an elevated railroad track running down Manhattan’s west side. It now represents a tranformation from a rusty, derelict railway that was set for demolition into a public park that defines new dimensions of urban reutilization. Freight train traffic dwindled and the elevated railway eventually became useless, then came the West Side Improvement Project and within it, the concept of the High Line. The project cost over $150 million in 1930 ( the equivalent to $2 billion today), and designed the High Line to go through the center of city blocks, rather than over avenues, so as not to disturb the residents. In 1980, the last train rolled down the tracks of the High Line, and it wasn’t until 2008 that New Yorkers could make use of it again. A few original rails remain in place, in memoriam of the railway, but the walkway is mostly comprised of long and narrow planks, which make it smooth and seamless. The High Line will also have several viewing platforms and seating areas as well as a water feature. Additionally, there will be spaces for performances and exhibitions to take place.
In New York, just like any other mega-metropolis, soaring urban growth has left the population suffering from a loss of public life as vast residential areas make people feel irrelevant. Furthermore, public life in streets and squares has declined and left people dependent on mostly protected indoor locations like shopping malls and restaurants.
The High Line could never have come to be without the help, support and ambition of a handful of key players. Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization, had high hopes for the High Line. Their goal is to promote the High Line as a public space and create a community around it. Thanks to them, it has become a true urban space that is well maintained. Landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm, are responsible for bringing the dilapidated railway into the 21st century, designwise . The High Line is a textbook exemplification of an urban space, with recreational, ecological and aesthetic aspects complimenting each other perfectly. It is more than an elevated park or pedestrian zone, it a place that has integrated people in a positive and innovative way.