NYC’s Lowline Underground Park To See Light of Day

July 6, 2015 by

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New York City is famous for its skyline, not so much for its treeline. The city has some great parks, but for 8.4 million people, it could still use more. One solution: go underground. That’s where you’ll find the Lowline, a concept for a subterranean park which will use solar technology to channel sunlight beneath city streets.

Underground Park NYC

Fun Underground Park NYC

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It might not sound like a smart idea to have an underground park where there’s no natural lighting and the wildlife consists mainly of rats, rats, and bigger rats. But the Lowline has considered all of that and its new solar technology system sheds light on all those issues.

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Solar Power Underground

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The park will generate energy from solar panels strategically placed on surrounding buildings, while powerful mirrors will reflect sunlight down to the street level, where special light conducting tubes will direct the sunlight down even further to light up the underground park.

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The Lowline’s solar and mirrors technology will provide enough natural light underground to ensure that many varieties of plant species will not just survive, but thrive.

Underground Solar Energy

And talk about the perfect location on New York’s Lower East Side. The Lowline will transform a relic of the past, The Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal–used between 1908 and 1948 to carry passengers over the Williamsburg Bridge–into another gathering place for people, this time as a destination, not just a place of transit.

Abandoned NYC Trolly Station

Although the former Trolley Terminal has long since been abandoned, once the football field-sized space is filled with real plants, real trees, and real sunlight, it will make the idea of an underground park feel totally natural.

Undreground Park Illustration

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When completed, the Lowline will join the ranks of other New York City parks which transformed otherwise disused spaces into urban oases. The High Line converted an abandoned elevated railroad trestle into a spectacular world-renowned public landscape, turning a once-blighted corner of the city into a park filled with perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees.

cantral-park-aerial-viewAerial photograph of New York City’s Central Park. Sergey Semenov/AirPano.com

And let’s not forget the 843 acres of Central Park, the first urban landscaped park in the United States and the one that launched the urban park movement.

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It’s not the first time an underground park concept has emerged. The Pop Down, above, a similar concept created for some of London’s forgotten tunnels, remains just an idea that has not yet come to fruition. Designed by Fletcher Priest, that project also included plans for a mushroom farm.

Lena Dunham’s Lowline Wish List

But the Lowline hopes to be the world’s first underground urban park and one New Yorker is already dreaming about her Lowline experience. In the video above, Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series Girls, discusses what she would like to do in the future Lowline.

Lena should be happy because things are looking up for the Lowline: the project’s recent Kickstarter campaign has of this posting generated over $148,000. It looks like the Lowline will indeed see the light of day. 

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The Lowline idea surfaced when two New Yorkers–architectural designer and former NASA satellite engineer, James Ramsey, and his friend Dan Barasch, a social entrepreneur interested in bringing art into the NYC subway tunnels–bounced around the idea of an underground park. Ramsey and his team at Raad Studio worked out the design concept, then he and Barasch shared it with neighborhood friends. Before they knew it, the Lowline developed into a popular cause and began drawing support from near and far.

Unless otherwise noted, photos via the Lowline.

3 Comments »

  1. janetgzinn said:

    This sounds amazing. I look forward to walking through & enjoying the lowline when it comes to fruition.

    — July 6, 2015 @ 07:19

  2. Robin Horton said:

    Thanks Janet, I too can’t wait to experience this!

    — July 6, 2015 @ 11:31

  3. ChallengedSpecies said:

    What a fascinating idea, would love to have some regular updates on this project.
    Great post.

    — July 12, 2015 @ 21:50

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