On View July 10-26, Exhibition Airs a Multitude of Ideas for
Converting a West Side Elevated Railroad into Public Open Space

NEW YORK, NY – From July 10 through 26, visitors to Grand Central Terminal will have a chance to join in brainstorming about the future of 1.5 miles of Manhattan's West Side. The occasion is the exhibition Designing the High Line, organized by the non-profit group Friends of the High Line. On view in Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall, the exhibition presents a wide variety of ideas—from the highly practical to the purely visionary—for preserving the High Line, an inactive West Side elevated railroad, and re-using it as open space for the public.

Overgrown with trees and wildflowers, the historic High Line stretches from 34th Street down through Chelsea to the Meat Packing District. A proposal to make this unused asset into an active part of present-day New York has won widespread approval, and the City of New York has taken the first official steps toward rail-banking the structure. Rail-banking would allow the High Line to become an elevated walkway, running for a mile and a half above the streets of Manhattan.

Background to the Exhibition: Where the Ideas Came From
To generate dramatic, thought-provoking ideas for the High Line's future, Friends of the High Line organized an open, international ideas competition, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. A total of 720 entrants from 38 countries stepped forward to submit proposals, demonstrating the extraordinary breadth of interest in the High Line and its potential.

A distinguished, independent jury convened by Friends of the High Line chose 15 of these proposals as the most visionary submitted to the contest. These top proposals are highlights of the exhibition at Grand Central, augmented by a multitude of other competition submissions. Visitors to Designing the High Line will have an opportunity to make their own suggestions for the future use of the structure.

As the next phase in its project to preserve and re-use the High Line, Friends of the High Line will hold a series of open workshops with members of the community beginning in September, with a variety of the competition proposals serving as springboards for discussion. At the end of 2003, Friends of the High Line will incorporate the community's comments into a Request for Proposals, which will lead to the development of realizable designs.

"The range of ideas presented in the competition opened our minds to the endless possibilities that the High Line suggests," comments Vishaan Chakrabarti, Director of the Manhattan Office of the New York City Department of City Planning and a member of the competition jury. "As we move toward implementation, that openness of mind will be critical for creating a unique public amenity for the West Side, and in fact for all of New York City."

To provide yet another forum for discussion, a group of competition jurors will join with moderator Kurt Andersen on Tuesday, July 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., for a panel discussion on Designing the High Line. The free event, organized in conjunction with the Design Trust for Public Space, will be held at the New York Public Library, 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.

Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano of LOT/EK Architecture, Gary Handel of Gary Edward Handel and Associates, and Paula Scher of Pentagram have designed the exhibition at Grand Central. Designing the High Line also incorporates a video presentation produced and directed by John Zeiman and narrated by Edward Norton. Admission is free.

Summer Benefit/Exhibition Preview and Panel Discussion
On Wednesday, July 9, Friends of the High Line will host an exhibition preview of competition proposals, when the organization holds its third annual Summer Benefit, co-chaired by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro and actor Edward Norton. Honorary hosts are Edward Albee, Glenn Close, Edie Falco, Diane von Furstenberg, Adam Gopnik, Joel Grey, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Deborah Harry, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Kerrey and Sarah Paley, Amanda Peet, Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, Cindy Sherman, Joel Sternfeld, and Justin Theroux. The gala fundraising event will be held at Grand Central Terminal. Cocktail and exhibition preview tickets start at $125. Benefit dinner tickets start at $500. Tickets may be purchased online at, by calling 212-631-9188, or by e-mail at

The Designing the High Line Competition
To stimulate the public's thinking about the future of the High Line, Friends of the High Line issued an open invitation for ideas on how to preserve and re-use the structure. The competition entries that flooded in were judged on May 30 by the jury convened by Friends of the High Line.

The jury members were:
Julie Bargmann (associate professor of landscape architecture, University of Virginia);
Vishaan Chakrabarti (Director of the Manhattan Office, New York City Department of City Planning);
John Lee Compton (Co-Chair, Chelsea Preservation and Planning Committee);
Lynne Cook (Curator, Dia Art Foundation);
Robert Hammond (co-founder, Friends of the High Line);
Steven Holl (principal, Steven Holl Architects);
Murray Moss (owner, Moss);
Marilyn Jordan Taylor (Chairman, Skidmore Owings & Merrill);
Signe Nielsen (principal, Mathews Nielsen); and
Bernard Tschumi (Dean, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation).

"It is important to understand that this was an ideas competition," notes Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line and a member of the jury. "The winning proposals did not have to be realistic. They were required to be thought-provoking, and they were—and as exciting and unexpected as the High Line itself."

According to competition advisor Reed Kroloff, "The beauty of a successful open competition, like this one, is the tremendous range of ideas it reveals. Some are serious, some humorous, some visionary, some revivalist. The four prize winners summarize several of the major themes that developed across the entry pool, which ranged from stabilizing the High Line and then leaving it essentially as it is to developing it as an extended cultural incubator. This was a competition aimed at generating visionary approaches, and boy, we got 'em. What a boon for New York City."

John Lee Compton, co-chair of the Chelsea Preservation and Planning Committee and a member of the jury, says that "As we move on to considering practical issues, the ideas from the competition—even the most bizarre ones—will help us do something special and wonderful with this unique resource."

The jury chose four principal winners: Ernesto Mark Faunlagui (Hoboken, New Jersey) for the proposal to cut away and displace parts of the High Line's structure, creating framed views and "park furniture" that combine recreational uses with "charged grittiness"; Matthew Greer and Karin Taylor (New York, New York) for a proposal to allow the existing vegetation on the deck to evolve naturally into a meadow, while providing public access and running a boxcar back and forth; Benjamin Haupt and Robert Huebser (Berlin, Germany) for their "Black Market Crawler" proposal, envisioning a moving structure with space for cultural, retail, and entertainment uses, both above-board and underground in nature; and Nathalie Rinne (Vienna, Austria) for the proposal to convert the High Line into a mile-long, elevated swimming pool. Each will receive a $2,000 cash prize.

The jury awarded honorable mentions to eleven competitors: Gisue Hariri and team (Mojgan Hariri, Thierry Pfister, Markus Randler and Bahman Kia, New York, New York); Ostap Rudakevych, Tomoko Matsushita and Yen Ha (New York, New York); Barbara Wilks and team (Alexandros Washburn and Michael Hsiung, New York, New York); Patrick Vaucheret and team (Sowmya Parthasarathy, Matthew Peek, Amanda Williams, Benjamin Grant, and Pierre Micheloni, San Francisco, California); Elisabeth Saint Amand (New York, New York); Christian Zapatka and Alan Zapatka (Washington, DC); Linda Pollak and MPSSHStudio (New York, New York); Elijah Huge and Bimal Mendis (New Haven, Connecticut); Anne Lewison and team Jennifer Sage, Peter Coombe, Russ Wooten, Ben Koenig, Julia Stanat, and Kit Yan (New York, New York); Loren Connors (Brooklyn, New York); and Misha Sklar and Yevgeniya Plechkina (Brooklyn, New York).

The jury gave the $1,000 JCDecaux North America High Line Access Award to Takuji Nakamura (Tokyo, Japan) for the most compelling solution to the problem of providing universal access to the elevated structure.

The $1,500 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Award, given to the best designs incorporating plants and wildflowers native to New York, was split between two winners: Andrew Heid (New York, New York) and Linda Pollak and MPSSHStudio (New York, New York). The jurors for the Wildflower Center Award were Susan Cherbuliez of Cherbuliez/Munz Landscape Architects (representing The Native Plant Center and the northeastern affiliate of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center) and Anthony Smith, President of the Horticultural Society of New York.

"The High Line competition gives us the opportunity to acknowledge and honor New York's wildlife heritage by bringing native plants and plant communities back into the city," said Robert G. Breunig, Director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. "The High Line probably could not support a strict ecological restoration project, but its design can respect the natural world as much as it does the built environment, evoking a sense of what this landscape was like before the urban transformation."

Rail-Banking the High Line
Built 1929-34 with the aid of public funds, the High Line served as an elevated freight spur for the West Side until 1980, when the last boxcars went down the tracks. Although the structure has been inactive since then, the neighborhoods below have undergone dramatic change, inspiring many officials and community residents to suggest that the structure be returned to public use as open space.

The project to convert the High Line into a public promenade has gained support from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, New York State Senator Thomas Duane, New York State Senator Eric Schneiderman, New York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick, New York City Council Member Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, among others.

Friends of the High Line has contributed to this support by publishing a detailed planning study, Reclaiming the High Line (with the Design Trust for Public Space), and by commissioning an economic feasibility study at the City's request. Conducted in 2002 by the firm of Hamilton Rabinovitz & Alschuler (HRA), the latter study concluded that rail-banking would be technically and legally feasible and economically rational. By creating economically valuable green space and raising property values, a reclaimed High Line would generate new tax revenues, which would equal or exceed the cost of transforming the structure. The HRA study also identified potential sources of funding for the project, ranging from private, corporate, and foundation donors to a variety of federal funding streams.

In December 2002, the City of New York asked the Surface Transportation Board to sanction negotiations with the High Line's owner, CSX, to rail-bank the structure. Under the government's rail-banking provisions, created by Congress in 1983, more than 12,000 miles of rail-trails have been developed nationwide.

Friends of the High Line
Friends of the High Line is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, founded in 1999 to preserve the High Line for re-use as an elevated public open space. The co-founders of FHL are Joshua David and Robert Hammond.

For information on Friends of the High Line, please visit


For further press information, please contact:
Rebecca Bell
The Kreisberg Group, Ltd.
130 West 25th Street, Suite 800
New York, NY 10001
(212) 799-5515

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