I love Fairway Market, located in an old wharf building in Red Hook. Coffee roasted on premises, artisanal cheeses and specialty imports, an outdoor café and a fantastic waterfront view…it's great!
High Line high
A few minutes with Robert Hammond, Co-Founder of New York City's Park in the Sky
(17 April, 2012) The High Line is this decade's Cinderella story in urban place-making. In 1.5 miles of abandoned railroad track cutting through Manhattan's West Side, two local residents—Robert Hammond and Joshua David—saw the potential for an urban oasis. Branded an eyesore and slated for demolition, the decrepit tracks were instead transformed into one of New York City's most popular destinations.
High Line Co-Founder and Executive Director Robert Hammond, a featured speaker at the 2012 SEGD Conference June 7-9, spent a few minutes with us to talk about how the High Line came to be.
Q Can you remember the first moment when you envisioned what a High Line Park could be? What gave you the idea?
I fell in love with the High Line from the street, which was this industrial ruin that surprised me when I first went up and saw there was half mile of wildflowers overtaking the space. Josh and I weren’t sure what should actually be up there but we were inspired from the very start by how nature had reclaimed the site.
Q In your book High Line: The Inside Story of New York City's Park in the Sky, you've documented the epic, 11-year struggle to bring the High Line to life. When was the moment that you realized this was really going to happen?
I didn’t really realize that this was going to happen until after it opened!
Q What was the most challenging aspect of the development and/or design process?
Now the High Line is such a popular place that people love. At the time, there were questions about whether anyone would actually want to go up to a park. People were really convinced that it was going to be very dangerous.
Q Did you always envision art as having a major role in the park?
Yes, because artists were our very first supporters, and the High Line ran through Chelsea, the heart of the gallery district. Art has played an even stronger role than I originally anticipated.
Q We have to ask you about the park signage. Did you have any idea how signage might enhance the park experience? Are there any plans for additional signage?
At the time, I think we really wanted to limit the amount of signage. We didn’t want it to feel like a botanical garden. Maybe we went too far, because since then there have been many requests for more signage about the historical nature of the park.
Q How do you account for the park's wild popularity with the public, both tourists and locals?
I think the High Line is both an escape and yet very much a part of the city. The thing I love about the park is the experience—how it changes peoples’ perceptions of the city and how it changes the way people see each other. My favorite aspects of this flux are how the plants change every two weeks or so with different things blooming all the time. And the people—they change every minute!
Q Our conference theme is The Bridge, focusing on connections between design disciplines, approaches, generations, philosophies, cultures, and languages. In your own work, what would you most like to bridge to?
For me, it’s about inspiring people without any experience to go start their own projects!