Rethinking Urban Pathways: Wye Line, NYC

by Mike Copeland
May. 3, 2019 | Back To Explore

About a month ago, Land Development joined forces with all of Consulting Specialties, and Workplace, to conceptualize on and deliver a design for a competition led by Metals in Construction Magazine. The competition challenged our team in several ways…

First, we wrapped our heads around the complex NYC urban context, and site, which includes the new and innovative Hudson Yards development – the largest private real estate development in the United States. Then we needed to come up with an efficient way to elevate and “move” up to 100,000 commuters – twice per day – while creating an iconic, distinctive and desirable urban pathway, “transporting the user into a different place”.  The point of origin is Manhattan’s renovated Penn Station, Moynihan Station.

Between three offices (Charlotte, Durham and DC), our diverse and collaborative team came up with a multi-layered solution, exploring what happens when an urban pathway seeks to be more than just a footpath through the city, but instead begins to create a multi-dimensional blur between people and the environment, technology and humanity, the ground and the sky.  Taking inspiration from the rhythm and movement of the railyard, the design seeks to stitch together the historical context of the site with the present development and future opportunities, redefining the idea of “transit” or the moving of something from one place (history) to another (future).

Focusing on the individual experience, as well as the impact on the community and existing streetscape, the Wye Line creates a multi-layered opportunity that lifts the pedestrian off the ground and offers them a choice of simplicity, recreation, or revolutionary experience, while simultaneously invigorating the street life. This weaving together of three paths creates a striking contrast against the regimented city grid below and responds to the observation that people move at different speeds and with different intentions.

Besides parameters and criteria outlined within the competition design brief, our ReThink team considered how this pathway can, like the nearby High Line has done, create development opportunities along this site’s corridors. We also carefully studied and are proposing a unique, macro scale structural gesture, spanning street activity below with minimum interruptions.

Also featured within the design are energy producing pavers, which coupled with solar panels, achieve enough energy to power the entire span’s electrical needs. This, along with harvesting rainwater for irrigation, helps the Wye Line achieve a Net Zero balance.

Lastly, the pathway’s proposed route was only the beginning of inspiration drawn from railyards.  Details like each pathway’s width, pattern, materials, the cross structure as well as shell and skin were also inspired by rail and movement.  It even informed the project name and branded logo!

If you’re interested to see and learn more, particularly more about how our team told the “Placemaking” story, as well as if you’re wondering, “Why the Wye Line???”, check out the submittal here.  The grand prize winner and finalists will be announced in NYC on February 25th.  We are excited to share and continue leveraging this unique and innovative concept, perhaps a glimpse into the future of movement through dense urban centers.