Guest Blog: Lisa Switkin, Landscape Architect

The Sundeck's lounge chairs are a popular spot for resting and people-watching.

The Sundeck's lounge chairs are a popular spot for resting and people-watching.

Lisa Switkin is Associate Principal and Lead Designer of the High Line at James Corner Field Operations. She writes today about her initial responses to seeing the High Line’s design turned into reality:

“After spending the past five years on the High Line in mostly solitary situations walking the line to familiarize myself with every curve, view and condition or in small groups working through essential design concepts and design and construction details – it is extraordinarily rewarding to finally see it activated and being used and loved by people. Although progress was evident every day as the integrated components of the park came together, I don’t think it truly became a reality for me until I was able to stroll up there last Saturday morning as a park user and observer.

“Someone said to me ‘have you noticed that people have a different pace when they are on the High Line?’ This made me smile, as I remember the supportive but skeptical reaction when we first stated our basic mantra of ‘Keep it Simple, Keep it Wild, Keep it Slow, and Keep it Quiet’ that inspired the design. ‘Can you even do that in New York?’ was a common response. And yet, it’s true; people do have a slower pace and sense of delay when they are on the line. They are suspended in a unique urban condition – both a part of the City and removed from the City at the same time. I hope the magical sense of surprise and bewilderment that the site produces itself, along with the legible and deliberate elongated transitions embedded into the design – from streetside to topside, hard to soft, woodland to grassland, river to city – give people the opportunity to see the City in new and unexpected ways; the familiar and iconic side as well as the up close, textural, and backside of New York City.”

More of Lisa’s photos after the jump.

Peel-up benches and alcove seating near 17th Street

Peel-up benches and alcove seating near 17th Street



Wooden peel-up benches in the trees at the Tenth Avenue Square

Wooden peel-up benches in the trees at the Tenth Avenue Square


The Sunken Overlook at the Tenth Avenue Square is an informal gathering place

The Sunken Overlook at the Tenth Avenue Square is an informal gathering place


8 Responses

  1. what is the point of a ‘peel-up’ bench – has this improved on the classic NYC park bench? Looks uncomfortable and expensive. Plus the feathered amphitheater – design asking for stumbling. And the feathered walk-way allowing weeds to peek through..the design seems so bereft of beauty, shallow. what will happen to the poor saplings peeking up through the deck when they start to grow- re-do the deck? I don’t know. This design does not look to me like it will be good for five years…

    • Please visit and observe and experience what you are commenting on before you comment. Anyone can have an opinion, but that opinion is worthless if not based on experience.

      • Or that opinion may be valuable if based on years of training as a landscape architect, an ability to see critically, (which no-one is being trained in these days), and then several visits to the site. We are an effusive culture, a culture where there are only winners. I think this design lacks a unified vision of elegance, but is instead a sort of rag-tag overlay with some very expensive details. I recommend a visit to Prospect Park to see truely inspired design…This is an incredible spot overlain with a mediocre vision.

    • Trace-

      You are a loser! You represent the negativity of do-nothing/complaining/uninformed opinion that too often the internet provides a forum for. As Jo says, walk before you talk!

      • sorry. I believe that design criticism is a valid field, and I believe that Americans need to be more informed and demanding of our designers.. A good example is the 9/11 memorial. It is a fright! A few very good criticisms of the design have been published . Not all negativity is snarkyness. It is possible to have an informed opinion. And it is possible for designs to be simply bad. I don’t put this design in the category of the 9/11 memorial, but more in a C grade of uninspired and lacking in vision, as well as the most important element for park design, ‘usability.’ The worst thing a public park can be is a fragile amalgam of expensive and uncomfortable details, with no regards taken for the functional dimensions of human nature..Lets go for a walk – I LOVE to talk steps and benches – I think endlessly about landscape design, and love a good discussion.

  2. Stunning work. The results of your amazing designs will be in actual usage from the population that enjoys it. So often parks are unwelcome design flawed, utility oriented messes. This one combines what had been created, abandoned, and then necessary for the people to enjoy again. Thank you for all of your considerations, quiet walkways, native grasses, and lonely trees. I applaud the design, the joy that is already being expressed by a people that craves a line drawing them together. Hooray.

  3. Stunning work MyButt!! You mean we traded tranvestite hookers and low level drug dealers for That? Wheres the frikkin pine trees. If pines are too course choose a sciopoides or a tsuga canadensis. Did you not put in pines because of some stupid concept about the impermanence of things or the transient nature of things? Fugg that give us our whores back. And WTF is up with the chelsea boys crew crusing each other and the pretend cops rutting around bloated and self important? Your perennial choice is Pathetic. Seriously. Lyndon Miller on Crack coulda done a better job. Structurally it roxs but i have a sneaking suspicion that the underside is much more interesting than the above side, though the drainage system is pretty cool, and i do like the concrete benches. Its an immature design.By that im not saying it evokes a feeling of youth, Im saying its an immautre design, even with the size water restrictions/considerations Its immature. Dd you a mock up first, see samples, or concept drawings? Look its fine but for all that cash and all the hype either give us back our whores or some frikkin pine trees okay. Sheesh. Ya coulda done better by going up to nybg and solicited any of the design4 or 5 classes to do a class project, or to city college and talked to any of them. It coulda been designed by ny’ers and built by nyers. Instead you got some idiot full of douchebaggery and blah blah to give us a fluff job. We coulda gotta fluff job before for a LOT cheaper.

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