“Promenade” is defined by Webster’s dictionary as a leisurely place to walk or ride, especially in a public space for pleasure or display.” It’s french in derivation, mid 16th century, recalling the actions of people of the court leisurely strolling as if on display, to be seen by all – commoners as well as other gentry/society. A processional walkway.
From se promener 'to walk', See also a “flaneur.”
"La Promenade (Mother & Daughters)", August Renoir, 1875-6
"La Promenade", Franz Gaillard, 1861, © Christies London
Promenades are essentially vegetated paths. The presence of vegetation is reason enough to stroll, to saunter,… breathing in the perfumed air of plants and flowers, touching the leaves and rustling the grasses, the transitional experience of moving from dappled shade to sunlight. These are highly sensorial experiences. Not to be forgotten is the sauntering among other people, many of which are equally engaged in people watching. “A place to be seen.”
Promenades tend to mediate between large and human scales, play environmental roles in narrow urban spaces, in essence they are avenues. When elevated they provide the pedestrian with a new perspective and experience, above the typical groundplane that one views its surroundings.
An esplanade is sometimes used interchangeably with promenade. Esplanades became popular in Victorian times in England when it was fashionable to visit seaside resorts
Promenade in Brighton, England
Promenade in Budapest
But, the precedent for the High Line is the Promenade Plantee. It is a nineteenth century railway viaduct transformed into an elevated greenway through the 12th Arrondissement. The arcades beneath became arts and crafts workshops. The design was by Jacques Vergely (landscape architect) and Philippe Mathieux (architect). Pedestrians have a garden environment for their high-level walk and cyclists have a route at ground level. Then, 3 miles from the start, the routes come together at ground level and proceed to the Bois de Vincennes. The high-level route has some enclosed sections, as when it passes between modern buildings, and some open sections with exhilaratingly expansive views.
The elevated Promenade Plantee
Some nice photos on this blog: