punctured at various points by individual fibre optic tubes whose light is
reflected by suspended mirrors on to the metal canopy, diffusing it evenly
over the vegetation. Solar arrays could collect energy from the sunlight
to replace the natural light when the collector heads lie in the shadow
of surrounding buildings, thereby reducing the amount of public energy
required to sustain the life below grade.
In September 2012, the Lowline team built a full-scale prototype of
the technology in an abandoned warehouse in the Lower East Side for
Imagining the Lowline, an exhibit that attracted thousands of visitors
and ultimately served as a proof of concept.
To explore our vision in greater detail, we commissioned a preliminary
planning study with Arup, the global engineering firm, and urban
development consultancy HR&A Advisors. The study concluded that
the Lowline project was not merely technically feasible, but would
also vastly improve the local economy and the adjacent transit hub
for the JMZ subway line. Once built, the Lowline would not only be a
park but a dynamic cultural space, featuring a wide range of community
programming and youth activities.
We envision not merely a new public space, but an innovative display of
how technology can transform our cities in the 21st century. And along
the way, we intend to draw the community into the design process itself,
In early 2016, the Lowline Lab created a further proof of concept
originally lasting six months: a functioning full-scale model of the solar
technology and accompanying green park in an abandoned warehouse
directly above the actual site. This showed people that an underground
park is possible, while fine-tuning and observing how the system and
the people that interact with it work together. Roughly 60,000 people
have visited the Lab through May 2016, and the city has granted it a
year-long extension to run until March 2017. The anticipated completion
date is 2021. While the project will not be completed for a period of five
years, the exhibit housing 3000 plants from 70 plant species illustrates
how the system might function and how it will eventually grow to cover
the three projected city blocks.
l James Ramsey is the principal of New York-based Raad Studio and the
creator of the Lowline. He studied cathedral design at Yale University before
working as a satellite engineer for NASA and then joining Penny Yates
Architects in New York. He taught design at the Parsons School of Design
before setting up Raad in 2004.