Gardens of the High Line Elevating the nature of modern landscapes

Piet Oudolf

Book - 2017

"Before it was restored, the High Line was an untouched, abandoned landscape overgrown with wildflowers. Today it is much more than that: it's a central plaza, a cultural center, a walkway, and a green retreat in a bustling city that is free for all to enjoy. But above all else, it is a beautiful, dynamic garden with plantings designed by Piet Oudolf ... [This book] offers an in-depth view into the planting designs, plant palette, and maintenance of this landmark achievement"

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 712.5/Oudolf Checked In
Portland, Oregon : Timber Press [2017]
Main Author
Piet Oudolf (author)
Other Authors
Rick Darke (author), Robert Hammond, 1969- (writer of introduction)
Physical Description
319 pages : chiefly color illustrations, color map ; 31 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 316-317) and index.
  • Introduction / by Robert Hammond
  • Elevating the nature of modern landscapes
  • Gardens of the High Line. Gansevoort woodland ; Washington grasslands ; Hudson River overlook ; Sundeck & water garden ; Northern spur ; 10th Avenue square ; Chelsea grasslands ; Chelsea thicket ; 23rd Street lawn & seating steps ; Meadow walk ; Flyover ; Wildflower fields & radial plantings ; Rail yards.
Review by Choice Review

The High Line, once an abandoned area filled with wildflowers, has been transformed into an art museum, a community area, a walkway, and a botanical garden. It stretches for more than a mile on an elevated railway structure through sections of Manhattan and attracts over seven million visitors a year. Unique? No; William Robinson's The Wild Garden (1870) highlighted this type of model garden. However, the High Line is an especially noteworthy amalgamation of an authentic industrial ruin transformed by the skills and knowledge of inspired landscape designers. The copious photographs are the book's glory; they illuminate the major part of the work that describes the 13 sectional gardens covering the entire distance of the original tracks. Manhattan's urban vistas provide a wonderful background for the nearly constantly changing, carefully selected vegetation. The original wild flora of the High Line consisted of 161 species. The design team expanded the plant diversity to about 400 species, including many grasses, perennials, and even trees. How such diversity is exploited for color, form, and seasonal variation in such a restricted environment gives this book instructional value for any garden designer. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. --Leroy G. Kavaljian, California State University, Sacramento

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* First, the content of this wondrous book should not be confused with that of On the High Line (2014), which also employs photos by coauthor Darke but is a walking guide more concerned with points of interest seen from the mile and a half of abandoned elevated train track running from Lower Manhattan to the rail yards near Twelfth Avenue and West Thirty-Fourth Street than with the extraordinary, diverse plantings from trees to grasses that animate it. Oudolf, one of the lead designers of the project, which was completed in 2014, expounds on the overarching beauty of the project's contradictions: the garden sits on a monumental example of America's heavy industry while presenting the lightness of being of the plant world, a study in precision of design and management of a series of gardens whose plants and patterns are constantly in flux, in both form and color. Darke's captivating images, hemmed in by the previously mentioned book's smaller format, are given lavish display here, often filling double-page spreads and leading the reader northward up the trail, stopping to showcase a flower, or a piece of sculpture, the curve of a rusted section of track adorned with blooms, or a view of the world beyond. A wholly enchanting celebration of the transformation of one sliver of urban industrial landscape.--Moores, Alan Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

The High Line is a tribute to nature, industry, and New York City. Running from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th -Avenues, the park was inspired by the persistence of plants, the solidity and beauty of 19th-century railroad -architecture, and city dwellers' longing for wild places amid the humanmade. High Line designer Oudolf and landscape consultant and author/photographer Darke offer a narrative of the park's creation and ongoing stewardship by volunteers. Its funding by the Friends of the High Line serves as a reminder of the intense commitment required for community-supported public parks anywhere. The High Line retains the wildness of "pioneer" or first plants but never at the risk of any one plant taking over completely. Each garden offers an experience unique to its location within the city and along the Line. A walk through its 1.45-mile entirety encourages personal interaction and reflection. Darke's photos, taken from the park's start to its end and at all times of day in all seasons, tell the story best. -VERDICT -Oudolf's aesthetics and mastery of plants will engage gardeners, landscape designers, and city dwellers everywhere and inspire a new regard for the regeneration of abandoned spaces.-Jeanette McVeigh, Univ. of the Sciences, -Philadelphia © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

When I first stepped up on the High Line in 1999, I truly fell in love. What I fell in love with was the tension. It was there in the juxtaposition between the hard and the soft, the wild grasses and billboards, the industrial relics and natural landscape, the views of both wildflowers and the Empire State Building. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time. And it's that tension that gives the High Line its power. Joshua David and I founded Friends of the High Line to try to share that magic. At first we just wanted to keep the space exactly as it was. We would leave all of the plants in place and simply put a path down the railway. It would have been a completely wild garden. That turned out not to be feasible. We had to remediate the structure, removing lead paint and putting in new drainage. This meant we had to take up everything--the rails as well as all of the plants. So we had to find a new way. We were not architects or planners. We thought New Yorkers should have a say in what happens on the High Line, so we asked the public for their ideas at a series of community input sessions. At one of these sessions, I received a card that said, "The High Line should be preserved, untouched, as a wilderness area. No doubt you will ruin it. So it goes." I kept that card posted above my desk. Because that has always been my biggest fear. That we couldn't capture that naturalistic beauty in its wild state. That we would ruin it. What New Yorkers fell in love with was a series of photographs by Joel Sternfeld taken on the High Line between 1999 and 2000. These images gave many New Yorkers their first glimpses of that hidden wilderness and helped to catapult the movement to open it as a public space. Just one glimpse of Joel's photography conveys the tension that we wanted in the reconstruction. With that image in mind, we hosted a design competition, looking for visionaries with more experience and talent than us who could conceive and carry out what the space called for--something as unexpected as the original. And we finally saw it again in the design that James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Piet Oudolf created. Drawing on the dynamic community of plants that had crowded the High Line for decades, the team designed a totally new experience that captured the soul of the space. Other designs we received were either very architectural or tried to exactly recreate the original wild landscape. Neither of those concepts were right. A strictly architectural approach would certainly have sacrificed the magic of the wilderness. The opposite idea, of putting all of the wild plants back "exactly" as they had been, though logical at first glance, was too logical. We felt that approach would anesthetize the final effect. It would be like a wax museum of the old elevated tracks. At the time, I was reading Giuseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard and was struck by the quote, "Everything must change so that everything can stay the same." And that's what this design team did. They didn't try to put something new on the High Line and didn't try to slavishly recreate what was up there before. They created an all-new magic that captured what Josh and I and so many others had fallen in love with. The High Line of today is not the abandoned field of wildflowers we saw in 1999. It has a new tension. You can see it, in part, in the fact that it is a hybrid space, built on contra- dictions: it's an art museum on an industrial structure. It's a community space running a mile and a half through several neighborhoods. It's a botanical garden suspended over city streets. Unlike Central Park, it's an immersion in the city, not an escape from it. But what I'm most often struck by is how clearly that original tension is captured within Piet Oudolf's planting designs. Breaking design tradition, Piet envisioned a multi- season garden of perennials, where the skeletons of plants have as much a part in the landscape as new growth. Throughout the year, tall grasses and reaching flowers grow and fall back like tides. The winter garden is as powerful as the summer, with the texture provided by dry stalks and seedheads. The brown plants against new growth echo the larger contradictions of the High Line: the wilderness in the city, the art museum on a train track. Like the park itself, the gardens hover between beauty and decay. In many ways, today's High Line plantings are more dynamic than the plants they replaced. On the old tracks, the plants changed gradually through the seasons. In contrast, the High Line gardens change every week. They are filled with native and introduced, drought-tolerant perennials that behave as wildly as their forebearers did. These plants thrive and spread, trying to take over more than their originally allotted space. This constant change, the tension between beauty and decay, is akin to the energy that drives New York. Like our city, the gardens reveal a dichotomy that becomes a force of inspiration. And people react to it in unexpected ways. Like using it for dating apps. One of our staff members collected profile photos taken on the High Line for the popular hook-up app for gay men, Grindr. Why do Grindr users choose this backdrop? Like Joel Sternfeld, they see haunting romance and excitement in the contrasts. It's perfect for a clandestine encounter. It's beautiful but still urban not suburban. For maybe slightly different reasons, it's also very popular for engagement photos. It takes a special kind of gardener, with an artist's eye, to maintain the tension of the High Line. Other designers have a rigid view of how their visions should be tended. But Piet's openness to change and the freedom he gives to the plants elevate gardening on the High Line to an art form. It requires an incredibly dedicated level of stewardship as well. Just like a minimalist building is harder to design and keep-up than it looks, the gardens require much more care than their wild, natural-looking abundance suggests. For this reason especially, Friends of the High Line is deeply grateful to our members and donors, as their support makes tending to this complex wildness possible. When people talk about the High Line they talk about the plants, but they also talk about the crowds. One might think I'd look back fondly on the time when I could walk up on the High Line alone. But it's better with people. Josh and I talked about this effect when it opened: it was the people within this landscape that kept it alive, that kept it from being a sterile botanical garden. The people are as important as the perennials. We create a new kind of tension. Before it was restored, the High Line was a spontaneous wonder. Today, it's something more. The untouched landscape we saw, covered with wildflowers, was surreal. The High Line today is incredible--it's a botanic garden, a central plaza, an art museum, a cultural center and an evolution of the wonder that was hidden in the middle of Chelsea for decades. It's always free. It is a living, changing space where anyone can experience that irresistible tension. And that, even more than wildflowers in the city, is something I never thought could be possible. Excerpted from Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscapes by Piet Oudolf, Rick Darke All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.