NYC’s High Line: An Inspirational Transformation

The High Line is one of the greatest innovative park designs. In 2009, a historic rail line elevated above the streets of New York City was converted into a new type of park. At first, this rail line was considered an ugly feature to the neighborhood with its wild, unkempt flowers everywhere, ready for demolition. However, these unkempt wild plants actually inspired some individuals to see the possibilities of what this space could be. The people who saw this possibility, created a non-profit group called Friends of the High Line. This non-profit helped advocate for the preservation of this unique space full of possibilities, with visions of ways that this space could be reused as a new type of public space. In addition, the residents who lived in the adjacent buildings loved the wildflowers that started to grow on this abandoned rail line, so they saved the rail line from demolition.


The High Line later turned into a place for people to escape the city life a bit and enjoy nature, art, architecture, and design. The High Line is unique since it transformed an old, industrial, run-down space, and turned it into a beautiful park, connecting city life and nature in a new way. This park also highlights the importance of native plants and the benefits native plants bring to an ecosystem. The High Line has been a global inspiration for many cities around the world to turn unused spaces into public spaces, creating new types of parks that inhibit biophilic design through the connection of built environments with nature.


The High Line embraces sustainability with different materials such as wood, plants, and other sustainable elements. Energy-efficient LED lights were installed to help light up the park after dark. Additionally, the High Line is planted in admiration of the landscape that naturally grew for 25 years after the trains stopped running. The park includes a wide variety of plant types such as perennials, grasses, trees, and shrubs that support the changing seasons, add new textures and colors to the space, and helps to create a sustainable environment. Features of this park include both pollinator-friendly plants and on-site composting, along with many other sustainable techniques.


The High Line, today, is a 1.45 mile long greenway that features more than 500 plant species. The High Line offers a space for tourists to come enjoy, for NYC’s residents to escape the busy city life, and for events to be held. This is a space for artists, food vendors, plant lovers, and city-dwellers.


Some of the plants used in this innovative public space include:

  • Whitespire Grey Birch, Grey Birch and River Birch

  • Common Serviceberry and Allegheny Serviceberry

  • Eastern Redbud, Ace of Hearts Redbud, Appalachian Red Redbud, Forest Pansy Redbud, and Pauline Lily Redbud

  • Dwarf Azaleas and Swamp Azaleas

  • Pussy Willows, Giant Pussy Willows, Rosemary Willow, and Melanostachys Black Pussy Willow

  • Cut leaf Lilac

  • Parker’s Variety Fern Leaf Yarrow, Terra-cotta Yarrow, and Walter Funcke Yarrow

  • Hula Dancer Pale Purple Coneflower, Pale Purple Coneflower, Yellow Coneflower, Fatal Attraction Coneflower, Jade Coneflower, Magnus Coneflower Vintage Wine Coneflower, Virgin Coneflower, Purple Coneflower, Sundown Coneflower, and Tennessee Purple Coneflower

  • Cheyenne Sky Switchgrass, Cloud Nine Switchgrass, Dallas Blue Switchgrass, Heiliger Hain Switchgrass, Rehbraun Switchgrass, Ruby Ribbons Switchgrass, and Shenandoah Red Switchgrass

  • Bellflower Clematis, Chinese Clematis, Virgin’s Bower Clematis, Bill Mackenzie Golden Clematis, Carmencita Red Italian Clematis, Elizabeth Clematis, Gipsy Queen Clematis, Mayleen Clematis, Miss Bateman Clematis, Sweet Summer Love Clematis, and Rubromarginata Dwarf Clematis

Read our blog Plants in New Places to learn about other inspirational green and sustainable designs in the built environment.