to the York New
Fig.1: Promenade Plantée
Fig.2: Promenade Plantée
A recently completed promenade that sweeps over Paris from the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes reveals the potential for New York's proposed High Line. Paris challenged the urban designers of the entire world with the creation of this promenade, which has helped to reclaim the glowthat Paris once had as "the city of the lights." Soon the High Line will offer New York City a similar chance -particularly if we learn from Paris's new high promenade.
The High Line is an elevated rail structure built in the 1930s on the West Side of Manhattan. Held aloft by a series of rough iron columns, it runs from 34th Street, parallel to the Hudson River, above West Chelsea's art galleriesand into the Meat Packing District. By the middle of last century the structure had been abandoned. Although many developers wish to demolish it, some visionary New Yorkers want to keep it. They see that this neglected landmark offers the opportunity to give New Yorkers a public promenade
that moves high above their city but preserves and observes the industrial heritage of some of their city'smost intriguing neighborhoods. Although the far-seeing New Yorkers who propose turning the dilapidated High Line into a splendid high promenade may be visionaries, they are not pioneers. Across the Atlantic, the City of Paris has blazed the way. Just four years ago, that city completed the world's first urban high promenade by restoring an old viaduct now lushly planted as if it were an aerialgarden, to create what Parisians call their Promenade Plantée. Any New Yorker who has strolled across the rooftops of Paris via the Promenade Plantée, and who has delved quickly into the promenade's origin, can easily imagine a day when delighted New Yorkers will meet to promenade together above their city and along their wondrous, new High Line. A stroll above the roofs of Paris shows not justsplendid vistas. It shows also how easily Paris could have demolished what it fortunately saved; how transportation in eastern Paris is becoming environmentally friendly; how the restoration of the Promenade Plantée has also restored the neighborhoods beneath it; how what seems a potential cost can become both an asset and an originator of wealth for an entire section of the city, and how
raising money and taking advantage of private funds can make such a project feasible. And the Promenade Plantée also shows how New Yorkers can use the Parisian experience to improve the design of their promenade. Splendid vistas of Paris open immediately to anyone hiking today atop the Promenade Plantée, which since 1859 has crossed the entire 12th arrondissement from LaPlace de la Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes at the eastern edge of the city. Beginning in 1998, this old track bed was converted by the landscape architects Philippe Mathieu and Jacques Vergely into a high promenade, allowing a magic aerial walk into the city. Parisians taking a stroll along this grand promenade find they have stepped into a botanist's dream, filled with thousands of plants growingin communion with birds and butterflies. Parisians say that when you begin a walk along this high promenade, you first climb some steps that pull you away from the noise and traffic of the city. Then you begin the real adventure, by changing landscapes as you travel a high-flying path. Early on, you pass through a trellised arcade and later through a bamboo forest that undulates in the wind. Allof a sudden, a balcony opens, revealing the heart of Paris. Continuing on the high promenade, once more you traverse yet another green paradise, which gives you a rest from the city. At one point you cut through a white contemporary building, splitting it in half. Then you see the mansard of a seventeen-century building and around its corner, looking down, a boulevard that disappears far away....