World's first underground park planned
Projected to open in 2021, the Lowline will transform an abandoned trolley terminal in Manhattan’s Lower East Side into the world’s first underground park.
The proposed site for the Lowline is the Williamsburg Bridge railway terminal, which closed to the public in 1948. It would provide a full acre of space just below Delancey Street, which still boasts the cobblestones, vaulted ceilings and crisscrossed rail tracks from its time as a trolley terminal.
A kick-starter campaign for the project was launched in February 2012, and in September that year, 11,000 visitors came to look at a functioning, full-scale model of the solar technology and green park installed in an aboveground warehouse.
Following this success, between October 2015 and February 2017, more than 100,000 people visited the Lowline Lab, and in July 2016 the project received conditional designation from the City of New York. The team is currently taking the time to raise the capital needed with the project expected to cost around $80 million to build.
Plants will be able to grow thanks to advanced solar technology designed to deliver light underground. These ‘remote skylights’ have been developed by James Ramsey of Raad Studio, and reflect and gather light at a focal point that is then directed below street level.
This sunlight is transmitted onto a reflective surface on a distributor dish, and during daylight hours no electricity is required to light the space. Because the light is brighter than developers originally thought it would be, they have been able to test more plants, including edibles.
The Lower East Side is a rapidly developing area, but is also one of the least green in New York. The Lowline aims to create more green space for residents, particularly in winter as it will be open year round, while also highlighting the historic elements of the former trolley terminal. For example, the old rail tracks will be incorporated into the park’s walkways.
On their website, the Lowline team say that their vision “is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.”
The Lowline would demonstrate the untapped potential of abandoned spaces under street level, and provide a free public gathering space. Part of the Highline Network, it forms an almost inverse version of the Highline, helping to create something socially conscious and architecturally unprecedented.
The creators “envision not merely a new public space, but an innovative display of how technology can transform our cities in the 21st century. And along the way, we intend to draw the community into the design process itself, empowering a new generation of Lower East Siders to help build a new bright spot in our dense urban environment.”