First Look at Chinatown's Mini High Line

By Julie Shapiro on February 17, 2012 2:41pm 

The stairs leading up to the mini High Line on Forsyth Street.
The stairs leading up to the mini High Line on Forsyth Street.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

CHINATOWN — The new mini High Line in Chinatown will be a lush Chinese-themed garden filled with playful poetry, new drawings show.

Renowned Chinese artist Xu Bing, who just completed preliminary designs for the elevated park at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge, envisions a tranquil community gathering space ringed by bamboo and weeping cherry trees, his representatives said this week.

Bing's signature Square Word Calligraphy — which looks like Chinese characters at first glance but is actually composed of English letters — will adorn the steps leading up to the Forsyth Street plaza with the last two lines of "Writings at Helin Temple," a classical poem by Li She, of the Tang Dynasty:

By a bamboo temple I talk with a monk midway:

Half a day, in my floating life, is thus whiled away.

The words will be written in both English and Chinese, inviting visitors to puzzle over both their appearance and their meaning, said Jesse Robert Coffino, studio director at Xu Bing Studio.

"It's an invitation to consider language and culture," Coffino told Community Board 3's Transportation and Public Safety Committee Wednesday night. "There's an excitement, a pleasure. There's a moment when people get the work."

Words from the poem will also be inscribed on blocky stone seats around the perimeter of the raised plaza, while the paved center will be kept clear for public events, Coffino said.

Bing is MacArthur Fellow recipient who came to the United States in 1990 and lived on the Lower East Side and in Williamsburg before returning to China in 2007, Coffino said. Bing is known for artwork inspired by traditional calligraphy.  

In response to community concerns about the park plans, the design team will use smooth-sided trashcans to keep away rats and notched railings and rough-edged stone to keep away skateboarders, said Mark Bunnell, partner at Quennell Rothschild & Partners.

At Wednesday night's meeting, the CB3 committee unanimously supported the plaza's design, which will go before the city's Public Design Commission for final approval this spring.

The new elevated park is scheduled to open in the summer of 2014.

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