The High Line, an innovative promenade created on a disused elevated railway in Manhattan, is widely recognized as among the most iconic urban landmarks of the twenty-first century. It has stimulated public interest in landscape design while simultaneously re-integrating an industrial relic into the everyday life of New York City. Since its opening in 2009, this unique greenway has exceeded expectations in terms of attracting visitors, investment, and property development to Manhattan’s West Side, and is widely celebrated as a monument to community-led activism, adaptive re-use of urban infrastructure, and innovative ecological design. It has also inspired a worldwide proliferation of similar proposals seeking to capitalize on the repurposing of disused urban infrastructure for postindustrial revitalization. 

In the wake of an overwhelmingly celebratory public reaction to the transformation, this interdisciplinary book is the first to bring together scholars from the across the fields of architecture, urban planning and design, geography, sociology, and cultural studies to critically interrogate the aesthetic, ecological, symbolic, and social impact of the High Line. In so doing, the book addresses the High Line’s relation to public space, creative practice, neoliberal modes of urban renewal, and policy-led gentrification.

The High Line has exploded as an incredibly popular new public space in New York City. It has become a global icon, a major tourist destination, an engine of urban renewal, and is influencing postindustrial design and regeneration projects in cities around the world. Aside from a handful of newspaper and magazine articles, the vast majority of commentary on the High Line is overwhelmingly celebratory. It has most often been treated as an unmitigated success story and model for other cities around the globe. While we acknowledge that the High Line has been incredibly effective in drawing attention to a new frontier of property development, attracting visitors from around the world, and re-stimulating public interest in adaptive reuse of industrial structures, the process of its creation is clearly subject to a variety of political, ecological, and aesthetic critiques. Swept-up in the fever of popularity and newness, these voices have not been amplified.

Despite intense interest in the High Line from the public, tourists, designers, and community, Deconstructing the High Line is the first book to offer a critical reading and contextualization of the High Line - one that recognizes its popularity and success without turning a blind eye to the contested processes of gentrification, neoliberal urban redevelopment, and iconic design as a tool of entrepreneurial city branding. It does so by bringing together in a productive and interdisciplinary encounter a range of critical analyses of the High Line from scholars and experts working in architecture, landscape design, urban geography, urban history, sociology, cultural and media studies, and visual culture.

While the High Line remains the explicit focus of this edited volume, Deconstructing the High Line addresses a variety of contemporary topics in urban development that are of worldwide concern. It explores the deeply globalized nature of urban design, inextricably intertwined with global finance capital and property speculation. It explores the social, political, and cultural elements of policy-led gentrification and industrial displacement. It reveals the extent to which the aesthetics of the postindustrial built environment and unruly urban nature have been mobilized as cultural drivers of urban redevelopment. In doing so, Deconstructing the High Line situates New York City as remaining at the cutting edge of urban change. Just as fashionable residential loft conversions in 1970s SoHo inspired the transformation of postindustrial cities worldwide, the High Line extends adaptive re-use to the leftover urban spaces of industrial-era infrastructure. This trend will increasingly be globalized as well.

We hope the book will initiate and lead a critical discussion around the High Line that will inform academic and public debates concerning the condition and future of cities in the postindustrial era.


Introduction: From Elevated Railway to Urban Park
Brian Rosa and Christoph Lindner

Part I    Envisioning the High Line
Chapter 1    Hunt’s Haunts
James Corner

Chapter 2    Community Engagement, Equity, and the High Line
Danya Sherman

Chapter 3    Loving the High Line: Infrastructure, Architecture, and the Politics of Space in the Mediated City
Alan Smart

Part II    Gentrification and the Neoliberal City
Chapter 4    Parks for Profit: Public Space and Inequality in New York City
Kevin Loughran

Chapter 5    Parks (In)Equity
Julian Brash

Chapter 6    Retro-Walking New York
Christoph Lindner

Part III    Urban Political Ecologies
Chapter 7    The Garden on the Machine
Tom Baker

Chapter 8    The Urban Sustainability Fix and the Rise of the Conservancy Park
Phil Birge-Liberman

Chapter 9    Of Success and Succession: A Queer Urban Ecology of the High Line
Darren J. Patrick

Part IV    The High Line Effect
Chapter 10    A High Line for Queens: Celebrating Diversity or Displacing It?
Scott Larson

Chapter 11    Programming Difference on Rotterdam’s Hofbogen

Daan Wesselman

Chapter 12    Public Space and Terrain Vague on São Paulo’s Minhocão: The High Line in Translation
Nate Millington