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ADITYA DEV SOOD
TURTLE NECK

Aditya Dev Sood runs the innovation consulting firm Center for Knowledge Societies (www.cks.in). He can be reached at adityadevsood@gmail.

New York’s renewal of old crumpling aspects has lessons for Delhi

New Yorkers enjoying the Highline

our design correspondent is in New York, where he is breathing in the city's art, architecture and culture again, which feels pleasant and rejuvenating as a cool breeze on one of these balmy summer days. I'm told it is raining already in New Delhi, which is good news. The mind, even after jet-lag has subsided, continues to live in two worlds at once, continuously making notes for what New Delhi can teach New York and vice versa.

My big new experience this week has be the New York Highline, an urban art and architecture project so spectacularly unique and so contextually bound up with the history and topography of this city that it could only have happened here and now and in this way. The Highline is an urban park set thirty feet up in the air above street traffic, which winds its way along almost thirty blocks in the West Side of the city, through what used to be the city's Meatpacking district. In the old days, before refrigeration and refrigerated trucks, meat had to be brought into the city fresh, to be slaughtered, butchered, canned and prepared for direct sale within the city itself. In order to bring cattle into the city, elevated rail tracks were built to feed different buildings at about a second story level, allowing street traffic to ply below. The meatpacking industry finally moved out of the city only in the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s the area was already a key zone for New York's gay community, along with all kinds of artists, creative types and other fringe groups who moved into this space. When the elevated rail was closed in 1980, its railway tracks were overgrown with weeds and high wild grasses.

The highline twists in and around buildings, it frames the avenues and streets of the district from all kinds of odd angles and vantages. Here and there the original tracks and foliage are preserved, but at other places there is a concrete pathway built

civic group called Friends of the High Line works in partnership with the City of New York to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park. The design team of landscape architects James Corner Field Operations, with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created the High Line's public landscape with guidance from a diverse community of High Line supporters. Construction on the park began in 2006 and the first sections opened a couple of years ago, while work continues on the northern edges of this unique structure.

The highline twists in and around buildings, it frames the avenues and streets of the district from all kinds of odd angles and vantages. Here and there the original tracks and foliage are preserved, but at other places there is a concrete pathway built of long thin concrete slabs that all vanish together into a distant point on the horizon. Benches, sunbeds and other features rise up from these slabs like features of landscape glimpsed through a moving train. Walking the highline one feels oneself transformed into a human chhug-chhug-gadi, coursing along, singing an age old song, chalate chalate...

The Highline came about because an entire community found a way to see beauty in a post-industrial wasteland. We don't have the same kind of industrial legacies in New Delhi, but we do have a similar challenge in seeing the possibility of beauty in the ravages that mark the edge of our city. The netherlands of the Yamuna, for instance, where industrial sewage and human remains dance and flow together in a grotesque and watery tandava. The moon-crater terrain of Okhla industrial area. The network of open drainage that snakes all around the backlanes of South Delhi colonies. All these wasted and ravaged spaces in Delhi remain to be collectively recovered, and restored to a beauty in which all of the city can share.

 
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