Here’s a good question: does anyone dislike New York’s High Line park? (And are you brave enough to admit to it in mixed company?)
If you’re familiar, the park — which revitalized elevated railroad tracks along the western edge of downtown Manhattan — was instantly met with architectural, cultural and local acclaim. Neighborhood regulars rejoiced. Trendy design students salivated (adaptive reuse!). Stars and starlets of all stripes paid their dues. Politicians smiled. Fashion models strutted.
Hype? Tons of it. But is it really that great?
That’s the crux of a brief post by Mark Lamster at Design Observer, which valiantly attempts to question the High Line’s reception based on the actual project itself. Is it worth talking about because it’s good, or is it good because it’s worth talking about?
And is it really that good, anyway?
He describes New York Times readers’ reaction to an opinion piece by Jeremiah Moss that called it “Disney World on the Hudson”:
You’d have thought, from the tenor of the response, that he’d desecrated the grave of Jane Jacobs. On Twitter, the architectural cognoscenti shot him down right quick. Joshua David and Robert Hammond, the High Line’s founding friends, answered in the Times. In the blogosphere, Matthew Gallaway authored the most convincing of many rejoinders. No, the High Line didn’t catalyze Chelsea’s transformation; it was inevitable. What businesses it displaced have been replaced by new ones that better serve the community. New York’s economy depends on tourists. Change is both inevitable and necessary for a city to survive. People love the thing. Get over it.
Lamster’s take: nothing is above criticism. There ought to be no sacred cows.
Did the High Line escape criticism because of the hype? Quite possibly.
Photo: Iwan Baan for the High Line