The Lowline: the world’s first underground park.

The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. The inauguration of the Kickstarter project is scheduled for 2018.


James Ramsey, architect and former NASA engineer specializing in satellite and Dan Barasch, social entrepreneur, launched a Kickstarter project in hopes to collect $ 200,000 to fund the transformation of a disused tram station on the Lower East Side in New York in a populated area of plants and trees.


The Lowline is the name of the project, doubtless inspired with another project of the city, the famous High Line, which has also converted industrial sites in verdant and sustainable expanses.


The proposed site is the one-acre former Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal, just below Delancey Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The site was opened in 1908 for trolley passengers, but has been unused since 1948 when trolley service was discontinued. Despite six decades of neglect, the space still retains some incredible features, like remnant cobblestones, crisscrossing rail tracks and vaulted ceilings. It is also directly adjacent to the existing JMZ subway track at the Essex Street subway stop– so park visitors and subway riders would interact daily. This hidden historic site is located in one of the least green areas of New York City— presenting a unique opportunity to reclaim unused space for public good.


Designed by James Ramsey of Raad Studio, the proposed solar technology involves creation of a “remote skylight.” In this approach, sunlight passes through a glass shield above the parabolic collector, and is reflected and gathered at one focal point, and directed underground. Sunlight is transmitted onto a reflective surface on the distributor dish underground, transmitting that sunlight into the space. This technology would transmit the necessary wavelengths of light to support photosynthesis, enabling plants and trees to grow. During periods of sunlight, electricity would not be necessary to light the space. In September 2012, the Lowline team built a full scale prototype of the technology in an abandoned warehouse in the Lower East Side, for the “Imagining the Lowline” exhibit. The exhibit attracted thousands of visitors, was heavily covered by the press and ultimately served as a proof of concept.

Next stage of the project consists in estimating quality and spectrum of light distributed and filtered by this vault of 12 meters. The major part of the equipment is forwarded in New York from South Korea and, given that the phase of test is going to take place in autumn and in winter, the team will have the opportunity to study functioning of the system during periods of low sunlight.

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