The Lowline: Capturing Public Space Underground

The Lowline could be the world’s first underground park, capturing public space within an abandoned trolley terminal on New York’s Lower East Side beneath Delancey Street. Conceived by architect James Ramsey, a former NASA engineer and principal at Raad Studio, and Dan Barasch, the proposed Lowline would support plants underground using solar technology designed by Ramsey that involves the creation of a “remote skylight,” in which sunlight passes through a glass shield above a parabolic collector and is directed to a distributor dish underground. “It’s not magic, it’s just math,” explains Ramsey.

For the past six years, Ramsey and Barasch have focused on the project, which has included preliminary planning studies conducted with engineering firm Arup and real estate, economic development, and energy-efficiency consulting firm HR&A Advisors to verify the technical and economic feasibility of the project. The Lowline has received endorsements from local community leaders, elected officials representing the neighborhood, and many other supporters. The creators are currently engaging with the MTA and senior city officials to outline a process for site transfer.

In the past week the duo launched The Lowline Lab, an installation built with funds mostly raised via Kickstarter at 140 Essex Street in an above-ground, albeit windowless location in the Essex Street Market that approximates the scale of the proposed project and provides a testing ground for Ramsey’s solar technology. The Lowline Lab features more than 50 types of plants, which were selected by Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects in partnership with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The installation is open to visitors on weekends through March 2016.

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The Lowline Lab. Image courtesy the Lowline.

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The Lowline Lab. Image courtesy the Lowline.

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The Lowline Lab. Image courtesy the Lowline.

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Rendering of the potential Lowline.

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Rendering of the potential Lowline.

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