The Lowline aims to build the world's first underground park, using innovative solar technology.
The Lowline is a proposal to build the world's first underground park, using technology to re-imagine the subterranean layer of the New York City landscape. We aim to transform an abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal - the largest known intact relic of the streetcar era—by using a system of reflective optics to incorporate plants and trees into the re-design. We envision not merely a new public space, but an innovative display of how technology can transform our cities in the 21st century.
Known drawbacks of design:
The project has multiple design challenges, which we believe makes this one of the most exciting design initiatives in New York City at the moment. First, this proposal envisions bringing sunlight underground via a passive daylighting system. So the design requires deep integration with street-level infrastructure, and solar collectors positioned and built to maximize exposure to sunlight throughout the day. Second, the design must create a sense of synergy with the adjacent subway line-- creating the most symbolic connection to New York's most iconic transit system-- while optimizing the "park" experience in terms of acoustics, sanitation, and aesthetics. Third, the challenge of integrating historic elements with futuristic solar distribution technology presents an exciting challenge. And finally, designing a space that will serve as both a community resource and a monetizable cultural attraction will be a critical focus.
Status of realization:
Education, Energy, Environment, Urbanization
Region of use:
The Lowline aims to create a stunning and aesthetically beautiful environment that brings natural sunlight underground and introduces green elements. The Lowline would work to blend the past and the future. Historic architectural details will be preserved and honored, while a sophisticated and functional design will be layered on that foundation. It will be a place with green elements that allow you to explore and maybe even get lost beneath the city’s streets. It will also be a cultural magnet for the neighborhood, with open space to hold concerts, art exhibits, farmers markets and a wide array of events and activities.
The Lowline is located in the culturally rich neighborhood of the Lower East Side—also one of the least green areas of the city. The Lowline will help “green” this neighborhood and become a public amenity. A new park would support local businesses and become a much-needed cultural and social destination. During the hot summer months the Lowline could be a place to escape the heat, and during the long, cold winter families and friends could have picnics. The Lowline would also offer educational opportunities for local youth and could act as their playground, as there are currently schools in the area lacking such spaces. The Lowline would not only build the local economy and community, it would also serve as an example of how to (re-) build cities in the 21st century, and how to think about transforming underutilized spaces.
The Lowline is located in the Lower East Side, an area of the city that has suffered for decades from crowded streets and housing. During the early 1900’s when waves of immigrants came to New York, it was the most dense place on earth. Today, the area remains one of the least green areas in the whole city. The Lowline solves that problem by introducing a 60,000 square foot space that would serve as a public amenity. It would also preserve an important part of the city’s past, commemorating New York’s streetcar history. Currently the site contains many stunning architectural details such as crisscrossing rail lines, remnant cobble stones and vaulted ceilings, yet these relics are presently hidden from public view. Benefiting from the project would be the 200,000 residents of the Lower East side, 8 million people New Yorkers, and the more than 50 million tourists who visit New York City every year.
Other relevant information
The Lowline idea grew out of a genuine passion for history, community development, technology, and design. Co-Founder and designer James Ramsey discovered the existence of the abandoned Williamsburg Trolley Terminal through personal contacts, and he immediately imagined introducing solar technology into the site. After discussing the project (over too much wine) with friend and social entrepreneur Dan Barasch, the two decided to pursue the concept of an underground park.
Proven and/or potential effects:
A lengthy feasibility study was conducted by an independent advisory firm, HR&A, the same group that prepared a similar study for the High Line before it was built. It was also done in partnership with leading engineering firm, Arup. The study resulted in many key findings, including the Lowline proposal’s technical feasibility, its potential to support local businesses, its historic preservation value, its ability to improve transit access, and its value as a cultural amenity. We have also worked with solar technology experts to study the tangible benefits of introducing natural sunlight into an underground environment, and have clear evidence that such designs improve both general well-being and retail outcomes.
Is the design protected by patent or ip registration?
How has the development of the design been financed hereunto?
Is there a plan for future investments?
Is there in-house competencies to secure market roll out of the design, with regards to investment, distribution, sales, etc.?
Professional status of designer:
United States of America
City/Country of residence:
New York City
Name of company:
Raad Studio, The Lowline