The Lowline: a four season park


New York City, building after building fills out the grid street plan leaving only few empty spaces. In fact, NYC is the most densely populated city in the US with 1 out of every 38 people in the United States living in the big apple. To accomodate so many people on a relatively limited space, the city is expanding vertically.  High buildings and few public spaces and squares in between are the consequences. One such densely built-up environment in NYC can be found in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Dan Barasch and James Ramsey are determined to improve the area by creating more green spaces. But where if there is no space?

Well, with their Bottom-up urbanistic attitude they explore more unusal solutions. That is: underground! A park and therefore public space underneath the city, which can be visited throught the whole year, should empower the residents to built a community and their own space.


Urban fact of science fiction?

The basis of the project is a fibre-optic technology to capture sunlight and direct it underground providing enought sunlight for photosynthesis of plants. Basically piped sunlight as the Sunday Times stated.

When sunlight is available, the installation would not rely on electricity to light up the space.
In September 2012, the installation “Imaging the Lowline” was showing visitors the full-scale prototype creating a “remote skylight” for trees and plants in an abandoned warehouse and therfore showed that the technology is viable.


The Lowline

The historic Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal in one of the least green spots of NYC on the Lower East side was picked as the location for the first underground public space called Lowline. Since the proof-of-principle installation in 2012 the Lowline project has raised money via several Kickstarter campaigns to refine their technology and secure the this former trolley location which is controlled by the MTA. According to the project’s timeline, Lowline might be possible as early as 2018.

In his TED talk Dan Barasch explains how he envisions new public spaces in the 21st century and technology can transform cities.

Header image credits royalty free

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About Lisa Landskron

Being a scientist in the field of molecular biology & leading the TEDxVienna Blogger team, Lisa loves to do biochemical as well as digital experiments to create and spread ideas.

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