The Spur boosts High Line’s bold design: Architecture review

By James Gardner | November 15, 2013 04:00PM

What is the Spur? Slightly reminiscent of the Titan’s Goblet in Thomas Cole’s famous painting of that name, it looks like a massive cup or bowl that has been left in nature for a thousand years and is overrun with vegetation. Ferns and strange grasses tumble over the sides, while trees rise from the center of the structure, above a sequence of rounded steps that also serve as seating.

But this is not a relic from the ancient past, nor the product of a painter’s whimsy. It’s an ambitious feature that will cap the third and final section of the much-loved High Line elevated park.

Two members of the High Line design team, James Corner of James Corner Field Operations and Ric Scofidio of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, unveiled the addition Tuesday. Though the third section of the park is scheduled to open in about a year, the Spur will not open until some time in 2015.

One of the High Line’s key strategic points is the entrance along West 30th Street, the point where Midtown transforms into Downtown and the West Side becomes the Far West Side. This is the place, at the easternmost point of the western park, where the Spur will rise.

An oversized bowl resembling a theater in the round, the structure will not be large in absolute terms, but it promises to be the boldest structure in the park, and perhaps the only one that asserts its architectural identity in a state of semi-independence from the one-time railroad tracks, and in such a way as to be legible from the street.

The ultimate success of the Spur will depend on the vegetation itself, which will play a crucial role. For now, though, it promises to be one of the better uses of plant life along the High Line. Whereas now the planters that align the narrow walkway seem more of a hindrance than an attraction, the very isolation of the Spur may greatly enhance the effect of all that vertiginous verdure.