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The High Line: A Community Led Gentrification

Part 2 Dissertation 2007
Paul Jones
University of Liverpool Liverpool UK
The following dissertation represented a chance for me to begin to understand what made New York, New York. What elements could be observed and understood, from a city that appeals to architectural students, and lay-persons alike. This was a chance to try and understand the American condition, the dream would be too cliché, in a means that could be presented within an architectural forum.

The High Line represents a new thinking in modern American cities, the reuse of existing infrastructure and buildings. Perhaps there is now an economic impetus, but what really matters is that a project like this supported by its community represents a fundamental change in policy and public thinking for a country that is by no means heavy handed in its approach to renovation of existing buildings. This then is a dissertation that on one hand tries to understand the enthusiasm of the community but also realise the nature of the government involvement within the urban realm, both historically and in the present.

What I have attempted to achieve is a dissertation that understands the role of community, government and the creation of a piece of architecture, its role in the community and how it could change the community over time. I have attempted to understand the city with reference to urban thinkers such as Jane Jacobs and Neil Smith.

The work of these two thinkers helped me to gauge the architecture of the High Line in terms of community impact. Was the High Line to become a failed piece of public plaza, whose sole use was to raise land values around its non-linear community, or is it a chance to realise a different public realm one where the people and the architect work together for the better of the community.

Paul Jones

New York fascinates Paul. The Highline project enabled him to explore that fascination constructively. He visited New York, spoke with many of those involved and was particularly impressed by discussions with the distinguished urban geographer, Neil Smith. This influenced Paul’s writing by opening up the economic urban processes to inspection and enabling a critical position with respect to the ambitions of the Highline’s promoters. The question arose of the spin put on the project as a result of the improvement to real estate values along the line. In this way, architectural projects, such as Diller and Scofidio’s could be put into a real world perspective outside the fashion-conscious world of architecture.

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