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Project Spotlight: The Lowline

Jan. 29, 2016

The Lowline aims to be the world’s first underground park. By using innovative solar technology, a historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City will transform into a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.

Co-founders James Ramsey and Dan Barasch were inspired to use technology to improve the lives of city residents, by creating more of the green space we all need. To explore their vision, they commissioned a preliminary planning study with engineering firm Arup and real estate, economic development, and energy-efficiency consulting firm HR&A Advisors. The study concluded that the Lowline was not merely technically feasible, but would also improve the local economy and adjacent transit hub.

The Lowline will use solar technology and landscaping strategies to usher in a new way of studying subterranean gardening.  The proposed solar mechanism involves a “remote skylight” that tracks the sun throughout the sky every minute, optimizing the amount of natural sunlight that can be captured and delivered. The light passes through a glass shield above a parabolic collector, reflects and gathers at one focal point, and redirects underground. A solar canopy spreads out the collected sunlight across the space, modulating and tempering it, and providing light critical to sustain the plant life.

Free and open to the public, the Lowline may enable New Yorkers to grow mint, mushrooms, and strawberries—and they won’t need the (limited) yard space of an outer borough to do so.

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