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Green Roofs in Sustainable Landscape Design,
by Steven L. Cantor,

2008

Steven L. Cantor is the "Landscape Editor" (December, 2013).  Steven is a registered Landscape Architect in New York and Georgia with a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He first became interested in landscape architecture while earning a BA at Columbia College (NYC) as a music major. He was a professor at the School of Environmental Design, University of Georgia. During a period when he earned a Master's Degree in Piano in accompanying, he was also a visiting professor at the College of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has also taught periodically at the New York Botanical Garden (Bronx) and was a visiting professor at Anhalt University, Bernberg, Germany.

He has worked for over three decades in private practice with firms in Atlanta, GA and New York City, NY, on a diverse range of private development and public works projects throughout the eastern United States: parks, streetscapes, historic preservation applications, residential estates, public housing, industrial parks, environmental impact assessment, parkways, cemeteries, roof gardens, institutions, playgrounds, and many others.

Steven has written widely about landscape architecture practice, including two books that survey projects: Innovative Design Solutions in Landscape Architecture and Contemporary Trends in Landscape Architecture (Van Nostrand Reinhold, John Wiley & Sons, 1997). His most recent book, Green Roofs in Sustainable Landscape Design, (WWNorton, 2008), provides definitions of the types of green roofs and sustainable design, studies European models, and focuses on detailed case studies of diverse green roof projects throughout North America. In 2010 the green roofs book was one of thirty-five nominees for the 11th annual literature award by the international membership of The Council on Botanical & Horticultural Libraries for its "outstanding contribution to the literature of horticulture or botany." He has been a regular attendee and contributor at various ASLA, green roofs and other conferences in landscape architecture topics.

Photos © Steven L. Cantor are available for individual purchase.

email: steven (at) greenroofs.com
View Steven's Profile


Landscape Editor Column

A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line,
New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 14 - Conclusion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
2/27/15

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor

"A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective" compares Phase One with Phase Two, describes what is proposed for Phase Three, and discusses Phase Three As-Built.  Design features to be reviewed include the walk system, seat furnishings, plantings, signage and graphics, water feature and drinking fountains, public art, lighting, maintenance and irrigation, and Phase 3.  The author also offers suggestions on economic impacts, restrictions and user activities, sustainability, and studies/research. 

Due to the length and photo essay nature of the in-depth contribution, the series was presented approximately every few weeks in fourteen parts.

Enjoying the High Line on 7.16.11.

The High Line is a signature achievement in urban park design that works best when it’s the simplest.  The array of versatile plant materials, planted in unique ways that evoke a sense of joy and wonder, completely disguise that this linear park was once an abandoned railroad trestle thought to be a major eyesore in a developing neighborhood.  The sheer variety of experience which the designers have achieved in a narrow space is remarkable.  Yet, at times it feels like a theme park with a crunch of pedestrians trying to squeeze into a new group of amusements every block.

In their exuberance to provide a total experience with such special features as interactive sculptures and videos, the design team has not always provided the most effective common denominators.  For example, although it’s perhaps a nice touch to have a drinking fountain that speaks to you or a restroom facility that communicates ecological messages or films that project on walls at night, it might have been a better use of resources to design the infrastructure so that the drinking fountains and water feature would be in use all year round, and not shut down during the winter, an often festive season in New York City when the weather provides a perfect invitation for a brisk or leisurely walk...

The restrooms near West 16th Street are often quite crowded; the only other location of restrooms on the High Line is at Gansevoort Street.  None have been provided in the recently opened third phase; 6.10.11.

Intense use of the High Line occurs under diverse weather conditions at all times of day; 2.18.12.

Enjoying the High Line at dusk in the winter; 2.18.12.

read more>>
 


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line,
New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 13 - As-built Third Phase Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
1/16/15

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor
 

A view looking west over the Pershing Square Play Area on 10.08.14.

The third phase of the High Line opened September 21, 2014, and extends the High Line from the previous terminus above West 30th Street around the far west side of the Hudson Yards -- the vast network of railroad tracks over which a huge private real estate development is slowly taking shape -- to West 34th Street across from the Jacob Javits Convention Center.  I've walked this new section a few times now in both directions.  It seems most logical to guide the reader from the entrance on West 34th Street and end this description where the High Line joins the previous end of the second phase.

The addition is a distance of approximately a third to a half of a mile ( 0.53 to 0. 80 kilometer), making the total length of the High Line from West 34th Street to Gansevoort about 1.5 miles or about 2.4 kilometers.  At least half of this new stretch (one can say that it's a work in progress) is an Interim Walkway and it's designed as such with the use of a flexible pavement material which could easily be transformed as elements of the Hudson Yards are constructed and the intersections of these two designs are advanced.

It's as if the third phase of the High Line is a giant umbilical cord around which the Hudson Yards will gradually evolve.  As the different parts of the body take shape, many details about the vital artery may change as well...

read more>>
 


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line,
New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 12 - Studies/Research Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
10/31/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor Unless Otherwise Noted
 

Above: Iconic wood bench on 6.16.11.
Below: The finishes are wearing off on 11.30.13.

Why and how is it that some benches have weathered much better than others?

Given its diversity and popularity, there are many potential subjects for research on the High Line.  In part such projects would be dependent on documenting differences in how some materials have weathered and withstood intense use compared to others, for example, teak or ipe, compared to composite materials.

Initially the first phase had little irrigation, so a comparison to phase two which was irrigated, would have been useful.  However, the High Line is primarily a park and urban destination for thousands of pedestrians and tourists, and the designers are often tweaking elements to improve them, so it's probably difficult to keep accurate records or maintain different materials or systems, when improvements are needed immediately.  Whereas a more standardized project with three distinct phases might lend itself to controlled experiments and comparisons, the dynamic state of the High Line makes this difficult...

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line,
New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 11 - Restrictions and User Activities & Sustainability Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
8/28/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor Unless Otherwise Noted
 

Waiting in line for the restrooms on the High Line on 6.10.11.

As the High Line has evolved, some uses have changed.  When it first opened there was only one elevator, and baby carriages and strollers were rare; they are quite popular now since there are five entrances with elevators at 14th Street, 16th Street, 23rd Street, 30th Street and the newest one at the main entrance at Gansevoort Street.  The elevator at W. 23rd Street was damaged by the flooding due to Storm Sandy, and it took approximately a year and a half to repair and re-open.  (Read the Plan Your Visit page from The High Line website.)

I've observed people with strollers laboriously hauling them up three flights of stainless steel steps, as they are not willing to walk a quarter mile to the nearest elevator.  Unfortunately, there are only two sets of restrooms - the original one above 16th Street at the approximate midpoint, where there is direct access to one of the new hotels, and a newer one at the Gansevoort Street access point.  So, people in need of restrooms in between must navigate back to the street level and find restrooms at other facilities, such as restaurants or hotels.

Photo © Steven L. Cantor

Main entrance at Gansevoort; 6.10.11.

6.19.11.

10.14.13.

1.12.14.

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 10 - Economic Impacts Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
7/26/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor Unless Otherwise Noted
 

11.30.13.

In 2005, the rezoning of the High Line district (West Chelsea) from industrial to mixed-use with specific guidelines adjacent to the trestle provided incentive for all sorts of diverse development.  As a result, the High Line has had a dramatic impact on the Chelsea neighborhood and the Meat Packing District, the two neighborhoods through which the High Line traverses.

Early High Line area construction on 10.09.06.

4.27.13.

11.30.13.

5.12.14.

5.12.14.

Huge numbers of new buildings have been constructed: apartments, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques.  Many more are planned.  Prominent architects, such as Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Robert A. M. Stern, Neil Denari, and others have contributed major buildings.

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 9 - Proposed Phase Three Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
6/03/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor Unless Otherwise Noted
 

Aerial graphic of the Spur looking west.
The new design concept for the High Line at the Rail Yards includes an immersive bowl-shaped structure on the Spur, a section of the High Line that extends over 10th Avenue at West 30th Street.  Image by
James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, courtesy of the City of New York with permission of Friends of the High Line.

Also known as The High Line at the Rail Yards, Phase Three is the final section of the High Line (the first phase of which opened in September, 2009) and is expected to be completed in late 2014 or perhaps early in 2015.

A view along current northern end of Phase Two of the High Line, with a structural column for 10 Hudson Yards in the background on 1.12.14.

Same view as above about four months later on 5.18.14.

On July 30, 2012 I attended a public presentation at the High Line itself (set up within the shadow of one of the buildings that bridges over the park) on the design for the proposed Phase Three.  My descriptions herein are based on this lecture and updates that have appeared on the High Line website and the Hudson Yards website...

Map of the High Line in Manhattan, New York City.  Source: Wikimedia Commons. Original image Anders Thorseth.  Updated by user: PeterEastern and Linda S. Velazquez.

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 8 - Maintenance & Irrigation Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
5/14/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor


 

10.13.13.

Friends of the High Line, the advocacy group that helped bring about the creation of the High Line park, is currently maintaining the park in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  Maintenance issues are to be expected in such an innovative design, as some maintenance practices must evolve as gardeners and other staff find what methods work best.

To date the costs per acre for maintenance are considerably higher than any other park within the city’s park system, at $ 671,641 per acre or almost $ 1,679,000 per hectare (according to the New York Post).  Phase One and Phase Two total 4.78 acres.[5]

10.13.13.

The width of the High Line varies from 30 to 88 feet so it's difficult to approximate the acreage of Phase Three which is being planned and partly under construction.  Since the first two sections are each half a mile long, if one thinks of Section 3 as similar ball park dimensions, then the finished High Line could approximate 7 acres.[6]

This matches the proposed total area in an earlier 2002 planning study, yet I would not be surprised if this grand total increases as there are significant areas, such as the Gansevoort Street entrance where considerable at-grade areas directly below the High Line seem to be within the purview of the park.

10.13.13.

The integrated nature of the design vocabulary, such as the benches, may create complex maintenance requirements, as removing one component for repair or replacement may be difficult...

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 7 - Lighting Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
4/07/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor
 


 

Enjoying the High Line at dusk; 2.18.12.

A large variety of lighting types were used in the first phase of the High Line.

I counted at least eight distinct types: a bollard in the planting beds; a continuous LED lighting incorporated in the guardrails on either side of the trestle which achieves a ribbon-like glowing effect; the integrated bench downlights; uplights in planting beds; low ankle-high light strips along the edge of the walk or planting beds; large light posts at elevators and other entrances; special lighting for key elements like the water feature; and, finally, ambient lighting from nearby or overhead buildings.

Glowing lighted bollards in the planting beds; 8.03.09.

Soft and effective guardrail lighting, above on 8.03.09 and below, 2.18.12.

Bench downlights; 8.03.09.

Uplighting in plantings; 8.03.09.

Illumination strips light the way on the 23rd Street Lawn and Seating Steps; 2.18.12.

Illumination strips at ankle height plus downlights on the benches; 2.18.12.

Targeted lighting at the Gansevoort entry; 4.27.13.

Special lighting for the water feature at the Diller - von Furstenberg Sundeck; 6.10.11.

Ambient lighting adds to the night time city park experience, above on 2.18.12.

Notice the dramatic effect of lighting at different times of the day on the same landscape in the two photos below of 7.04.11:

The lighting in the second phase is less varied.  Some sections of the Philip A. and Lisa Maria Falcone Flyover in Phase Two have reasonably effective downlights and uplights...

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 6 - Public Art Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
3/12/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor


 

Valerie Hegarty's Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches; 6.25.10.

From the initial opening of the first phase, the High Line has incorporated public art.  Some installations were temporary, such as a fanciful sculpture decorating the construction fence separating the completed first phase from the second phase work under construction. 

9.25.09.

Temporary sculpture was installed to decorate the fence separating the first phase from the second phase under construction; 6.12.10.

Autumn on the Hudson Valley with Branches was removed with the opening of Phase Two; 6.19.11.

In some ways the High Line's emphasis on art has matched the development of the West Chelsea neighborhood, which now is home to hundreds of art galleries and artists' studios.  It's not uncommon to have a new exhibit open in a gallery that has a corollary installation in the High Line... 


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 5 - Water Feature & Drinking Fountains Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
2/21/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor
 

The popular water feature at the Diller - von Furstenberg Sundeck; 6.16.11.

When the first phase of the High Line opened, the construction of the water feature at the Diller - von Furstenberg Sundeck was still underway.

9.25.09.

As originally conceived, the concrete pavement planks morphed into a complex truncated configuration with pyramidal sections to hold water like a series of mini-dams.  Pedestrians were to be able to wade into the water, and get their feet refreshingly wet, all while enjoying a view of the Hudson River in the distance.

The original water feature on 8.03.09.

However, the details of construction and safety could not be achieved, for example, how to avoid a tripping hazard on the uneven planking when the water was drained and how to achieve a smooth flow of water through such a bumpy arrangement...

 


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 4 - Signage and Graphics Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
2/06/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor


 

Original Phase One signage; 8.03.09.

One consistent theme in Phase One of the High Line was the use of signs saying “Keep It Wild, Keep on the Path.”  Yet, gradually it became clear to the public and critics that the park is not wild; it is no longer an abandoned viaduct, but a series of extended linear gardens which require a high level of maintenance.  It's a highly managed landscape which, nonetheless, challenges traditional public perceptions of what is beautiful.  The grass is not always green.

The interpretation for the public should be clear and accurate, so the text of this somewhat misleading message was changed.  No urban coyotes were lurking in the grasses of West Chelsea.  When the second phase opened, new signs emphasized: “Protect the Plants, Stay on the Path.”  A universal graphic icon is included to indicate the behavior to eliminate. Throughout the park these newer signs have completely supplanted the earlier text.

New signs, above on 2.18.12, are clear in warning people to stay out of the planting beds in order to protect the plants.  Earlier signs, below on 8.03.09, featured a different message to protect the "wild" design.

Clear, accurate signs are now used throughout the High Line.  Where temporary signage is required, the message is clear and straightforward.  For example, the 23rd Street Lawn and Seating Steps, a raised lawn area of 4,900 SF (455.22 square meters), is popular for sunbathing and picnicking, but easily wears out.  Large informational signs state, “Rejuvenation plays a major role in sustaining the Lawn, allowing the grass to rest after periods of heavy foot traffic.  To this end the Lawn is temporarily closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and as well as days following heavy rainfall.”

Temporary signage.  6.19.11.

On other occasions, simple signs state, "Closed for Restoration."  In other locations, drinking fountains turned off for the winter are marked “Out of Service for Winter Season...”


 

A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 3 - Plantings Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
1/13/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor Unless Otherwise Noted


 

Foxtail lily, Eremurus stenophyllus, with Rudbeckia sp in foreground; 6.12.10.

The most remarkable plantings and combinations of plantings abound on the High Line.  The designers have provided a palette of often surprising materials surpassing expectations.

When the High Line was being designed, there was a general indication that the landscape was to be a grassland matrix interspersed with a variety of other plant materials; in short, a simulated prairie.  As it has been implemented, one section of the High Line, the Northern  Spur, where the tracks entered one of the industrial warehouse buildings of West Chelsea located off the main High Line route (between W. 15th and W. 16th Street, south of the Tenth Avenue Square), was planted in Phase One to simulate this pre-existing landscape as closely as possible.

Northern Spur; 5.11.12.

Sweet black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia subtomentosa; 8.03.09.

A colorful simulated prairie landscape high in the sky; 7.16.11.

Liatris, Rudbeckia sp., purple coneflower, Echinacea sp., and grasses; 7.16.11.

Photo © Steven L. Cantor

Inspired by the self-seeded railway landscape; 6.16.11.

The current website which is updated to reflect the latest design, once described a prairie landscape, but now indicates that "the High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running.  The species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and color variation, with a focus on native species.  Many of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are incorporated into the park's landscape."[4]  ...

read more>>

 

A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 2 - Seat Furnishings Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
1/02/14

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor


 

Iconic wood bench; 6.16.11.

Although there was a general appreciation of the graceful and comfortable design of benches, and the prominent 10th Avenue Square wood deck in the first phase of the High Line, there was criticism of the use of ipe for the benches and deck.

Phase One ipe bench later weathers to silvery color; 8.03.09.

Relaxing on Phase One's wide lounge chairs; 8.03.09 above and 5.11.12 below on the Diller – von Furstenberg Sundeck.

 

Phase One's 10th Avenue Square deck is well used; above on 8.03.09 and below on 7.16.11.

This species of wood as used in the High Line is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as sustainably harvested from a managed forest, with reputed life-spans of up to 100 years, yet short of making a trip to the Amazon or the exact source of the timber, it can be quite difficult to verify sustainable practices overseas.[3] ...

read more>>


A Comparison of the Three Phases of the High Line, New York City: A Landscape Architect and Photographer’s Perspective

Part 1 - Series Intro & Walk System Discussion

By Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Architect
Inaugural Landscape Editor Column
12/19/13

All Photos Courtesy and © Steven L. Cantor


 

© Steven L. Cantor

Phase One High Line on July 15, 2009.

Designed by landscape architect James Corner of Field Operations, architect Ricardo Scofidio of Diller Scofidio + Renfro with planting design by Piet Oudolf, the High Line, the remarkable linear park built on an abandoned railroad viaduct in New York City, has been enormously popular.

The design team anticipated how well green roof technology would function and adapt to the viaduct since it could handle at once the huge weight of several fully-loaded trains carrying heavy loads.  As an intensive green roof, it has very few structural load limits which would curtail use.  At peak use times there can be lines of pedestrians waiting to enter with as many as 20,000 visitors per day on weekends.[1]

The High Line has won numerous awards, and in particular several as a green roof, for example, in 2013 and 2010 from the American Society of Landscape Architects, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities in 2011, and in 2010 from the International Green Roof Association.  This is a rare public project in which the success of the initial phase contributed to a high level of funding for subsequent phases.

7.16.11.

The High Line has benefited from intense scrutiny as a result of lectures in which the designers were questioned; public hearings, media critiques in newspapers, journals, and blogs; lobbying from specific organizations, such as the Rainforest Coalition; and comments from city government and other public officials...

read more>>
 

Steven L. Cantor, Landscape Editor

Contact Steven:

LandscapeEditor@greenroofs.com


The opinions expressed by our Guest Feature writers and editors may not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Greenroofs.com, and are offered to our readers to simply present individual views and experiences and open a dialogue of further discussion, debate and research.  Enjoy, and if you have a particular comment, please contact the author or send us an email to:  comments@greenroofs.com.


 

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